them than other young people (Heise, Moore, and Toubia, 1995; Luster and Small, 1997; Stewart et al., 1996; Stock et al., 1997).
A widely held norm in many settings argues that young men’s sexual needs are beyond their control and demand immediate satisfaction. Sexual conquest and potency appear as related themes in many cultural definitions of masculinity, placing women at increased risk of coerced sex (Heise, Ellsberg, and Gottemoeller, 1999). Young men are perceived to have uncontrollable sexual urges, and forced sex becomes an acceptable option (see Varga, 1997, 2001). As studies of young people in Africa (Ajuwon, Akin-Jimoh, Olley, and Akintola, 2001), and India (Sodhi and Verma, 2003) show, boys are socialized in some settings into a sense of entitlement to sex—for example, as fair exchange for gifts or attention given to the girl. Case studies undertaken in Ghana, Malawi, and Zimbabwe document the predatory behavior of male students and teachers in schools in which sexual aggression goes largely unpunished and there are strong social supports for conforming to traditional gender roles (Leach et al., 2003). As a result, as several studies suggest, female victims are perceived to have invited the coercive incident. These gender double standards condone premarital and extramarital sexual relations for men but ostracize and stigmatize sexual activity among unmarried young women.
Studies of sexual coercion among young people suggest that they often fail to perceive the environments in which they live as supportive and nonjudgmental with regard to their sexual health needs in general. As a study in Kenya revealed, young females reporting coercion were reluctant to confide in parents for fear that they would blame the girl for inciting the incident or violate her privacy by discussing it in the community. Teachers and health providers are similarly perceived to be no more supportive. In one study in Goa, India, for example, only 15 percent of female victims and not a single male victim shared the experience with friends or parents (Patel and Gracy, 2001). In a similar vein, young people in Uganda report that telling family about rape leads to misunderstanding or being sent away from home (Bohmer and Kirumira, 1997). In Bohmer and Kirumira’s (1997) study in Kenya, girls feel there is no avenue for recourse: parents accused them of collusion, police of prostitution. Narratives in Nigeria suggest that victims are afraid to draw attention to themselves for fear of being blamed by family and society for the incident (Ajuwon et al., 2001). Similarly, a study of young people seeking counseling in clinics in Colombia and Peru reports that as many as two-thirds of those seeking counseling had never told anyone about the coercive experience, for reasons of shame, fear, and threats from the perpetrator (Stewart et al., 1996).