Abstract: Sexual Assault and Behavioral Health: What Can We Learn from a Probability Sample of Young Men Who Have Sex with Men? (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

583P Sexual Assault and Behavioral Health: What Can We Learn from a Probability Sample of Young Men Who Have Sex with Men?

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Jeremy Gibbs, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Adrienne Baldwin-White, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Georgia, GA
Background and Purpose: Previous research indicates that young men who have sex with men (YMSM) are at increased risk for experiencing sexual assault compared to their heterosexual peers. While this increased risk is documented in comparison studies, very little is known about the specific coercive experiences of sexual assault for YMSM. The aim of this study was to investigate characteristics of sexual assault experiences and their association with depression symptomology and substance use in YMSM.

Methods: In 2017 and 2018, 124 YMSM (18-24 year-olds) were recruited to participate in an online study using probability-based sampling methods, in Los Angeles, CA. Participants answered items about demographics, lifetime experience of sexual assault (i.e., unwanted touching, nonconsensual oral sex, and nonconsensual penetration), sexual assault in the last year, coercive experiences with sexual assault perpetrator, recent substance use, and depression symptomology. Regressions investigated the relationships between coercive experiences with the sexual assault perpetrator and behavioral health.

Results: Seventy-five percent of the sample reported experiencing some kind sexual assault in their lifetime with 30% reporting an experience of nonconsensual penetration. Fifty-five percent of the sample reported some type of recent sexual assault, while 18% reported a recent experience of nonconsensual penetration. Participants reported varied interactions with the perpetrator of the sexual assault: 29% reported being lied to or threatened with a relational consequence, 27% reported having their attractiveness criticized, 61% reported being taken advantage of while intoxicated, 8% reported being threatened with physical harm, and 29% reported being physically forced. Interactions with the perpetrator were associated with several behavior health issues (e.g., being criticized was associated with recent alcohol use and depression symptomology).

Conclusions and Implications: Findings support previous evidence of high rates of sexual assault among YMSM. Further, the majority of men who reported sexual assault indicated that it occurred while they were intoxicated, evidence of the need for consent education related to substance use. The method of sexual assault perpetration appears to have a relationship with current behavior health. YMSM who have their bodies criticized experience higher levels of depressive symptomology, possibly the result of a diminished self-esteem. Future research should focus on understanding the psychosocial factors, which mitigate the relationship between sexual assault experiences and behavioral health issues.