Background: Although intimate partner sexual aggression has been shown to be associated with adverse mental health outcomes, there is scant information about sexual aggression in Chinese intimate relationships in general and about its mental health impact in particular. This article aimed to investigate sexual aggression in Chinese intimate relationships, including the use of force or threat of force and non-physical coercive tactics in unwanted sex.Methods: The quantitative and qualitative data used in this paper were drawn from a prospective cohort study conducted in Hong Kong between September 2010 and September 2012. A total of 745 Chinese women aged 18 or older who had been in an intimate relationship in the preceding 12 months were recruited from sites in all districts of Hong Kong. Multiple logistic regression analysis, ordinary linear regression, and t-tests were used in quantitative analysis. Directed content analysis was used to analyze the transcripts of 59 women who revealed experiences of intimate partner sexual aggression in individual in-depth interviews.Results: Of the 745 Chinese women in the study, 348 (46.7%) had experienced intimate partner physical violence in the past year, and 179 (24%) had experienced intimate partner physical violence and sexual aggression in the past year. Intimate partner sexual aggression significantly predicted PTSD and depressive symptoms after controlling for intimate partner physical violence. Among the 179 women reporting intimate partner physical violence and sexual coercion in the past year, 75 indicated that their partners used force or threat of force to make them have sex, and 104 of them reported that they gave in to sex because of non-physical coercive tactics used by their partners. Qualitative data revealed a variety of non-physical coercive tactics with different degrees of subtlety used to coerce women into unwanted sex with their partners. Chinese women experiencing physically forced sex had significantly more depressive symptoms and PTSD symptoms.Conclusions: Our findings indicate that sexual aggression in Chinese intimate relationships has specific mental health consequences over and above those associated with physical violence. Assessment of partner violence in Chinese relationships should include screening for sexual aggression in order to provide appropriate interventions.Trial registration: ClinicalTrials gov NCT01206192.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The study was funded by the General Research Fund from the Research Grant Council of Hong Kong (Project Number 753510).
We are extremely thankful to the Research Grant Council for granting the General Research Fund, to the Family and Child Protective Services Units (FCPSUs) under the Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR Government for assisting recruitment of participants, to Helena Yuk for allowing us to conduct surveys at the HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre, to Kallie Law for collecting and analyzing the data, to Ruby Lo of Policy 21 for her helpful statistical assistance, and to all the women who took part in the study.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Reproductive Medicine
- Obstetrics and Gynaecology