Sexual Violence Against Adolescent Girls: Influences of Immigration and Acculturation

This study investigates associations between immigration and acculturation with sexual assault among a large, representative sample of high school girls. The analysis utilized data from the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted in 1999, 2001, and 2003 (N = 5,919). Adjusted logistic regression analyses were conducted among the full sample and a sexually active subsample. Being an immigrant was associated with recurring sexual assault victimization; this effect was not consistent across age and racial/ethnic groups. Immigrant status conferred risk among adolescent girls aged 15 and younger, Black adolescent girls, and sexually active Hispanic girls. No differences were detected in sexual assault victimization based on acculturation
Decker,Michele R.
Silverman,Jay G.
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Violence Against Women
Key points-- Immigrant girls are twice as likely to experience recurring (past and present) sexual violence compared with non-immigrant girls. Acculturation (measured by language usually spoken at home) was not associated with sexual violence. Summary-- Researchers looked at data from Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted in 1999, 2001, and 2003 to identify associations between immigrant status, acculturation, and sexual assault among adolescent girls (N = 5,919). Fifteen percent of girls in the sample had experienced sexual violence (defined as sexual contact against your will). Immigrant girls had twice the risk for recurrent sexual violence compared with non-immigrant girls. Compared with the total sample (including other immigrants), immigrant girls aged 15 or younger and Black adolescent immigrant girls were at increased risk for recurrent sexual assault. Although researchers found significant sexual violence risks for all sexually active girls, sexually active immigrant Hispanic girls were at greater risk compared with nonimmigrant sexually active Hispanic girls. Recommendations for further studies included a break down of ethnic identification and country of origin (this study collapsed both); exploring the relationship of the perpetrators and victims; and separating and quantifying measures of consensual and non-consensual sexual activity. Limitations-- Respondents may not have distinguished between having had intercourse voluntarily or through force or coercion, which may have resulted in girls who had only experienced abuse being labeled sexually active. Researchers were unable to identify the relationship of the perpetrator to the victim. Highest-risk adolescents may not have been in school and may not have been represented in the study.
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Adolescent/high school; racial/ethnic differences; underserved populations
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