PHILADELPHIA - In a recent study involving 64 African American adolescent girls ages 14 to 17, researchers found that up to 59% of the study’s subjects experienced sexual abuse that included threats, verbal coercion, condom coercion and physical violence. Of the 64 interviewed, unwanted sex made up 30% and 9% respectively of the abuse cases. Furthermore, more than 50% of the girls reported that they had experienced sex without a condom in spite of their preference to have their partner wear a condom.
Sexual partner abuse is playing an increasing role in the incidences of HIV infections. According to Anne M. Teitelman, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, assisting women in getting out of abusive relationships should be an HIV strategy to prevent the spread of AIDs. One of Dr. Teitelman’s goals is to find new ways to increase condom use among adolescents. However, her findings report that coercion and abuse prevent a significant number of Black adolescent girls from ensuring safe sex practices with their partners.
“Promoting healthy relationships among youth and preventing partner abuse in adolescent relationships should become a public health priority,” says Dr. Teitelman. “This is necessary for primary prevention of the intersecting epidemics of partner abuse and HIV/STIs (sexually transmitted infections).”
In the report, Dr. Teitelman describes methods of “condom coercion” that some males resort to in order to avoid condom use. These methods include physically abusing and threatening a partner, emotional manipulation and condom sabotage, which is the removal of a condom during sex without the girl realizing that the protection is no longer there.
Another problem is the pressure that prevents women from even bringing up the subject of using a condom before engaging in sex. Dr. Teitelman states that when the subjects in the study were asked, “Have you ever wanted to talk with your sexual partner about using a condom during vaginal sex, but were not able to?” twenty-five percent responded “yes.”
Based on the study’s findings, Dr. Teitelman and her colleagues are currently developing a clinic-centered intervention for girls facing abuse from their sexual partners.