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Sexual Violence and its Countermeasures in Korea

-- A Victimization Survey of Seoul Women ---

Feb. 1990

Shim, Young-Hee
Yun Seong-Eun
Park Sun-Mi
Cho Jeong-Hee
Kim Sun-Young
Kang Young-Su

Korean Institute of Criminology

This study is to reveal the extent of hidden sexual violence in Korea through a victimization survey of 2,270 Seoul women. The concept of sexual violence used here is a sociological and feminist one based on the concept of continuum of incidence of sexual violence which includes various types of sexual violence.

The major findings are as follows:

1. As to the laymen's perception of sexual violence, particularly, rape, it turned out that many women do not perceive acquaintance rape as rape. For example, only 51.2% of the women surveyed answered that they perceived the date rape as rape. This failure of rape perception chiefly comes from the biased ideas on sex. The biased ideas on sex are found more in women who are older, less educated and brought up in rural areas. Thus it can be said that the formation of biased ideas on sex is closely related to childhood environment, schooling and experiences of social activities.

2. About 94% of the women surveyed answered they feel uneasy due to the spreas of the crime of sexual violence, especially 40.2% of the respondents feel "extremely uneasy". When specified according to the situation, the respondents reported that they felt uneasy when they met strangers at a secluded place (96.9%), when taking a taxi at night (92.1%), when going out at night (91.8%), when going to a theatre or a park alone (82.0%), when traveling or going on mountain-climbing with women only (76.8%), when they are alone at home at night (76.6%), and when they are alone at home during the day (46.7%). Furthermore, some of the women surveyed even showed restrictions in behavior due to this fear.

3. The extent of hidden sexual violence turned out to be 40 times higher than the official statistics, showing a rate of 485.9 per 100,000 population in case of rape in 1988.

The extent of sexual violence by type shows a continuum of incidence ranging from light sexual contacts (76.4%), flashing (74.5%), sexual harrassment (23.7%), obscene phone calls (46.3%), to serious sexual contacts (23.7%), attemped rape (14.1%), rape (7.7%) and child molesting (6.5%) in a decreasing order.

In addition, it turned out that there are some other victimizations, which are not so well perceived as sexual violence. For example, 67.3% of the married respondents reported that they experiences "wife rapes" by their husbands, but only 43.8% of them perceived the wife rape as rape.


4. Women who are more vulnerable to victimization of sexual violence turned out to be those who work in sex industry, those who are younger, those who live alone or with women only, and those who worked before or are working now.

5. The assaulters in sexual violence turned out to be acquaintances rather than unknown men. According to the respondents, 80.6% of assaulters in serious sexual contacts, 80.1% in rape, 78.1% in attempted rape and 74.3% in child molesting are acquaintances.

6. As to the place of occurrence, it turned out that while sexual contacts, light or serious, occurred mostly in open or space (22.5%) and remote place (17.2%), rape, both attempted and completed, occurred in inns or hotels (39.6%), remote places (22.0%) and the rapists' houses (18.3%).

As to the means of enforcing the victims, it is found out that the assaulters mostly rely on social or mental threat rather than physical violence. For example, in the case of rape, 40.9% of victims were raped with physical violence and 56.1% with social or mental threat.


7. As to the resistance of the victims, it turned out that women, faced with rape situation, usually try to desuade the assulter (58.4% in attemped and 48.8% in completed rape victims). What should be noted with regard to avoidance strategies is that 28.2% of victims in attempted rape ran away from or fought with him and could successfully avoid the situation, while 32.5% of victims in rape didn't do any resistance at all and couldn't escape the rape. From these results, it can be derived that physical resistance or running away are more effective means to escape or avoid rape.

8. The impact of victimization of sexual violence turned out to be serious, especially in mental and social aspects. The victims reported that they suffer from insomnia or neurosis, fell hatred against men and disturbed in their work due to their experiences of sexual violence.

Especially the victims of rape, either attempted or completed, complained that they are sufferring more from mental disturbances than from economic losses of physical aftermaths.

9. As to the reporting of vicitmization of sexual violence, it turned out that only 1.9% of attemtped rapes, 1.8% of completed rapes, 1.2% of sexual harassmants, 1.1% of flashings, 0.7% of child molestings and 0.6% of obscene phone calls are reported and others remain unreported.

And the major reasons for not reporting the victimization are social prejudices which make the victims not want to reveal the incidence and the disadvantages in the criminal justice procedures. In this regard many women surveyed (73.5%) wanted to abolish the current reporting system which stipulates that only the victim herself can report. And 84.7% of respondents also wanted harsher punishment of rapists.

10. As preventive measures toward sexual violence, dispersion of right sex education, regulation of sex industries and the reform of criminal justice system were mentioned as more important.

11. Reform of criminal justice can be achieved in two directions. One is to reform or revise some problematic laws, such as making a new rule on wife rape and abolishing the current restrictions on the reporting system. The other is to improve the investigaintg, prosecuting and sentencing procedures for the protection of the victims, which includes the introduction of women police and women prosecutor system, and non-open trials among others.


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