By Tara Culp-Ressler on September 10, 2013 at 1:18 pm
United Nations researchers just published a sweeping study on the roots of sexual violence, spanning six countries and two years. The survey, which they say represents the world’s largest scientific project into the subject so far, aimed to investigate the “under-researched” area of male-perpetrated rape. On average, about one in four men included in the study said they had raped someone at some point in their lives. One in ten had raped someone who wasn’t their romantic partner.
The UN study surveyed over 10,000 men from Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka. The researchers caution that some regional attitudes about sexuality in Southeastern Asia may contribute to the results that they gathered across those six countries. Still, though, there are some big takeaways from their findings. Here’s what the new research can tell us about the landscape of sexual violence as a whole:
Many people have the wrong idea about what “rape” actually is. The researchers intentionally didn’t use the word “rape” in any of their questionnaires about Asian men’s sexual histories. Instead, they asked men whether they had ever “forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex,” or if they had ever “had sex with a woman who was too drunk or drugged to indicate whether she wanted it.” That likely helped researchers gather more accurate information about the nonconsensual sexual acts that men had engaged in. Since many people don’t learn the lines of consent, many sexually active adults may not understand when they’re violating someone else — and they may not believe they have actually raped someone. “Rape doesn’t just involve someone with a gun to a woman’s head,” Michele Decker, a public health professor who co-wrote the commentary that accompanied the new study, pointed out to CBS News. “People tend to think of rape as something someone else would do.”