ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Beginning with Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski’s pathbreaking study, the sexual victimization of female college students has emerged as salient research and policy concern. Building on this earlier work, we used a national, random sample of 4,446 female college students to focus on an issue of continuing importance: the level and determinants of victims’ willingness to report their sexual victimization. The analysis revealed that although few incidents—including rapes—are reported to the police and/or to campus authorities, a high proportion are disclosed to someone else (mainly to friends). Incidents were more likely to be reported to the police when they had characteristics that made them more “believable” (e.g., presence of a weapon or assailant who was a stranger). The use of alcohol and/or drugs by offenders and/or victims had a unique effect, causing students to be more likely to disclose their victimization to friends but not to campus authorities. The implications of the findings for extant debates and for future research are also explored.
Content may be subject to copyright.
http://cjb.sagepub.com
Criminal Justice and Behavior
DOI: 10.1177/0093854802239161
2003; 30; 6 Criminal Justice and Behavior
Bonnie S. Fisher, Leah E. Daigle, Francis T. Cullen and Michael G. Turner
College Women
Reporting Sexual Victimization To The Police And Others: Results From a National-Level Study of
http://cjb.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/30/1/6
The online version of this article can be found at:
Published by:
http://www.sagepublications.com
On behalf of: International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
can be found at:Criminal Justice and Behavior Additional services and information for
http://cjb.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts:
http://cjb.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions:
http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.navReprints:
http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.navPermissions:
http://cjb.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/30/1/6 Citations
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
ARTICLE
10.1177/0093854802239161
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION
REPORTING SEXUAL
VICTIMIZATION TO THE
POLICE AND OTHERS
Results From a National-Level
Study of College Women
BONNIE S. FISHER
LEAH E. DAIGLE
FRANCIS T. CULLEN
University of Cincinnati
MICHAEL G. TURNER
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Beginning with Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski’s pathbreaking study, the sexual victimization of
female college students has emerged as salient research and policy concern. Building on this ear-
lier work, we used a national, random sample of 4,446 female college students to focus on an
issue of continuing importance: the level and determinants of victims’willingness to report their
sexual victimization. The analysis revealed that although few incidents—including rapes—are
reported to the police and/or to campus authorities, a high proportion are disclosed to someone
else (mainly to friends). Incidents were more likely to be reported to the police when they had
characteristics that made them more “believable” (e.g., presence of a weapon or assailant who
was a stranger). The use of alcohol and/or drugs by offenders and/or victims had a unique effect,
causing students to be more likely to disclose their victimization to friends but not to campus
authorities. The implications of the findings for extant debates and for future research are also
explored.
Keywords: sexual victimization; reporting; rape; college women; police
Figures have revealed that the majority of female rape and sexual
assault victims are between the ages of 16 and 24 (Rennison,
6
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, Vol. 30 No. 1, February 2003 6-38
DOI: 10.1177/0093854802239161
© 2003 American Association for Correctional Psychology
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
1999). It is not surprising, then, that considerable attention has been
given to the sexual victimization of college women. Existing research
has shown that college women are at an elevated risk for victimization.
Studies have estimated that between 8% and 35% of female students
are victims of sexual offenses during their college years (DeKeseredy &
Schwartz, 1998; Fisher, Sloan, Cullen, & Lu, 1998; Koss, Gidycz, &
Wisniewski, 1987).
Despite the prevalence of sexual offenses, a large proportion of vic-
tims did not report their sexual victimization to the police or to other
authorities (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Results from the National
Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) have consistently shown that
rape and sexual assault have been the most widely underreported vio-
lent crimes. In fact, the 1999 NCVS results revealed that only 28.3%
of these crimes were reported to the police (Rennison, 1999). Notably,
other research has provided even lower estimates of reporting
(Bachman, 1998; Finkelson & Oswalt, 1995; Gartner & Macmillan,
1995; Kilpatrick, Edmunds, & Seymour, 1992; Kilpatrick, Saunders,
Veronen, Best, & Von, 1987; Koss, 1985; Russell, 1983; Tjaden &
Thoennes, 2000). Similarly, sexual victimizations of college women
have gone largely unreported. To illustrate, Koss et al. (1987) found
that only 5% of college student rape victims reported their experience
to the police. In a national study of college students, Sloan, Fisher, and
Cullen (1997) found that only 22% of rapes and 17% of sexual
assaults were disclosed to local police, county sheriff, campus police,
campus security, or other authorities.
Because of the extent of nonreporting, research has attempted to
uncover the factors that affect the likelihood that sexual victimization
will be reported to officials. Studies have discovered that demographic
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 7
AUTHORS’NOTE: The results from the National College Women Sexual Victimiza-
tion study by Professors Fisher and Cullen were supported under Award No. 95-WT-
NX-0001 from the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. Professor
Joanne Belknap helped in the development of the sexual victimization survey for the
National College Women Sexual Victimization Study. We also thank the reviewers for
their respective comments. Points of view in this document are those of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Jus-
tice. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Bonnie Fisher,
Division of Criminal Justice, P.O. Box 210389, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati,
OH 45221-0389; e-mail: bonnie.fisher@uc.edu.
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
characteristics of victims are correlated with the likelihood of report-
ing victimization incidents (Bachman, 1998; Gartner & Macmillan,
1995; Lizotte, 1985; Pino & Meier, 1999). For example, older women
were more likely to report their sexual victimization to the police than
were younger victims (Gartner & Macmillan, 1995). Research has
also revealed that reporting to police or law enforcement is shaped by
incident-related characteristics and contexts (see, e.g., Bachman,
1998; Finkelhor & Ormrod, 1999; Gartner & Macmillan, 1995;
Hanson, Resnick, Saunders, Kilpatrick, & Best, 1999; Pino & Meier,
1999; Skogan, 1976; Williams, 1984). Analyses of these incident fac-
tors have suggested that crime seriousness, victim-offender relation-
ship, location of the offense, and the consumption of alcohol account
for some of the variation in reporting. That is, offenses that resulted in
injury, that involved a weapon, that were perpetrated by unknown
assailants, and that occurred in unfamiliar places were the most likely
to be disclosed to the police.
The tendency not to report sexual victimization may have untoward
consequences. At the most basic level, the failure to report precludes
assailants’ arrests, which in turn may limit the deterrent and
incapacitative effects of the criminal justice system (Skogan, 1976).
Not reporting also restricts the likelihood that victims will have access
to victim-assistance services provided by the criminal justice system.
Such victims, for example, cannot be compensated for their loss or
referred to support programs (Frazier & Burnett, 1994). Furthermore,
reliance on official estimates that omit many incidents of sexual vic-
timization may result in inaccurate data being used for planning and
policy decisions; thus, the proper emphasis may not be given to certain
types of crimes or to particular high-crime areas (Skogan, 1976).
REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION
Extent of reporting. Because 95% of crimes known to police come
to their attention through citizen reports, reporting is crucial in initiat-
ing an action in the criminal justice system (Reiss, 1971). Despite its
importance, many crime victims fail to report their victimization to
law enforcement officials. For example, from 1993 to 1998, approxi-
mately 50% of victimization incidents were not reported to the police
8 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
(Rennison, 1999). This trend of nonreporting also holds for college
students; research has shown that only 25% of all incidents of victim-
ization are reported to authorities (Sloan et al., 1997).
Not only do persons fail to report crimes in general, but research has
also unveiled that sexual victimization in particular is largely unre-
ported. That is, approximately three fourths of rape victims failed to
disclose their victimization to police (Rennison, 1999). Notably, this
reporting rate was even lower when other forms of sexual victimiza-
tion were included (Russell, 1983). Consistent with this finding,
researchers have found that college women also have high rates of
nonreporting (Fisher et al., 1998; Koss et al., 1987; Sloan et al., 1997).
In a national-level study of college women, Fisher and Cullen (1999)
reported that 86.7% of rapes and 85.7% of sexual assaults went unre-
ported to the police. Almost all (97.7%) unwanted sexual contacts
were not reported to the police.
Even more than other types of violence, sexual victimization is
unlikely to be reported to the police. Research has examined the rea-
sons given by victims of nonreporting and the factors that affect vic-
timization disclosure. As such, characteristics of the incidents and
perceptions and beliefs of victims have been articulated by women as
reasons for not reporting sexual victimization to the police. In addition
to specific reasons, determinants of reporting to the police include
incident and victim characteristics.
Reasons for not reporting. An analysis of the literature on reporting
revealed that crime victims most often reported when they felt report-
ing would result in a positive outcome (Dukes & Mattley, 1977; Laub,
1981). That is, victims’ belief that reporting will enable the police to
catch offenders was often cited as an important motivator for reporting
crime (Laub, 1981). Victims of sexual victimization, on the other
hand, most often failed to report based on both the circumstances of
the crime and on the psychological beliefs and fears of the woman her-
self. Coupled with the fact that sexual victimization is especially
likely to be unreported to police, particular attention has been paid to
these factors in hopes of discovering why such serious crimes go
undisclosed.
It is thought that most crime victims do not feel responsible for their
victimization; however, research has shown that rape victims tend to
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 9
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
blame themselves for being raped. This self-blame tended to occur
when victims were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the
incidents and when they perceived that their own actions led to them
being sexually victimized. Furthermore, when victims thought that
these actions would be judged negatively by others, they were likely to
internalize blame (see Finkelson & Oswalt, 1995). This self-blame
due to victims’own actions is particularly salient when it is considered
that alcohol consumption is often involved in sexual victimization
(Koss et al., 1987) and has been reported as a method by which assail-
ants obtain nonconsensual intercourse (Pitts & Schwartz, 1993).
In addition to incident-specific reasons, other research has uncov-
ered psychological factors that influence reporting of sexual victim-
ization. Some victims may have feared retaliation by offenders if they
reported the incident to the police. If the victims knew the offenders,
then it would have been possible they feared additional victimization
resulting from reporting (Bachman, 1998; Greenfeld et al., 1998;
Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Moreover, victims may have considered
the victimization to be a private matter and may have chosen to deal
with it informally (Bachman, 1998). This rationalization may have
been motivated by feeling embarrassment at having been victimized
or by lacking confidence that reporting would lead to arrest (Finkelson &
Oswalt, 1995). Victims may also have wished to avoid the stigma
associated with being a crime victim, or they may have wished to pro-
tect their families or those close to the perpetrators and felt that their
experience should remain private (Bachman, 1998; Weis & Borges,
1973).
Researchers have also investigated how features of the criminal jus-
tice system may impede or promote reporting. For example, inter-
viewing female rape victims, Dukes and Mattley (1977) concluded
that victims who possess favorable attitudes, such as feeling the police
handle cases efficiently and in a concerned and considerate manner,
were more likely to report offenses.
FACTORS RELATED TO VICTIM REPORTING
Seriousness of the incidents. Although all victims of sexual victim-
ization suffer some form of harm, some crimes are more serious in
10 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
nature and cause more physical and/or psychological harm. Research
has shown that those incidents that involved the highest degree of
injury were more likely to come to the attention of the police
(Bachman, 1998; Felson, Messner, & Hoskin, 1999; Finkelhor &
Ormrod, 1999; Gartner & Macmillan, 1995; Hanson et al., 1999; Pino
& Meier, 1999; Williams, 1984). Other aspects of criminal events that
have influenced the seriousness of the incidents are presence of weap-
ons, threats or use of force, completion of rape, and monetary losses
(Gartner & Macmillan, 1995; Orcutt & Faison, 1988). In a study of
897 women who reported experiencing victimization, Gartner and
Macmillan (1995) found that harm, economic loss, and use of a
weapon together explained approximately 15% of the variation in
reporting to police. In light of this finding, it has been suggested that
victims are most likely to report when they perceive their victimiza-
tion to be serious in nature (Greenberg & Ruback, 1992).
Victim-offender relationships. One of the most widely researched
areas of influence concerning reporting of sexual victimization
involves the effect of the victim-offender relationship. In general, vic-
tims have been less likely to report incidents to the police when offend-
ers were relatives, intimates, or acquaintances than when crimes were
perpetrated by strangers (Gartner & Macmillan, 1995; Pino & Meier,
1999; Skogan, 1976; Williams, 1984). Consistent with the general
victimization-reporting research, reporting sexual assaults was seen
as more appropriate when offenders were strangers than victims’boy-
friends (Ruback, Menard, Outlaw, & Shaffer, 1999). Evidence has
suggested that victim-offender relationships were also predictive for
crimes committed against juveniles. For example, both juvenile vic-
tims of sexual assaults (Finkelhor & Ormrod, 1999) and victims of
childhood rape (Hanson et al., 1999) were more likely to report when
the incidents involved strangers. Contrary to this finding, other evi-
dence suggested that victim-offender relationships did not affect the
crime-reporting decisions of sexual offense victims (Bachman,
1993, 1998). This lack of effect, however, has been critiqued on
methodological as well as statistical grounds (Pollard, 1995). Despite
the lack of a consensus, it has remained important to study the effects
of victim-offender relationship on reporting of sexual victimization.
Approximately 74% of rapes or sexual assaults are committed by
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 11
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
nonstrangers; thus, if victims are less likely to report such assaults, the
majority of offenses will not come to the attention of police
(Rennison, 1999).
Victim characteristics. Research has revealed that demographic
characteristics of victims were related to reporting sexual victimiza-
tion to the police. Similar to the reporting of other crimes, older vic-
tims of sexual offenses were more likely than were younger victims to
report to the police (Gartner & Macmillan, 1995). Income level, edu-
cation level, and race of victims also appeared to affect the reporting of
sexual victimization. Thus, an analysis of NCVS rape data from 1979
to 1987 has shown that income was negatively related to reporting
(Pino & Meier, 1999). A similar relationship has been found for edu-
cation level: The more educated a woman was, the less likely she was
to report being raped to the police (Lizotte, 1985).
The effect of the interracial nature of incidents has also been found
to predict reporting to the police. Lizotte (1985), for example,
reported that when offenders were African American and victims
were Caucasian, victims were less likely to report the assault or rape to
the police. Contradictory evidence, however, exists regarding the rela-
tionship between race and reporting of sexual victimization. Although
some research has found that Caucasian women are most likely to
report (Feldman-Summers & Ashworth, 1981), other studies have
concluded that reporting was more likely when victims were African
American (Bachman, 1998). Other research, however, has suggested
that minority women were less likely to report rape to the police, evi-
dence that those groups that have been historically distrustful of the
police were less likely to see reporting to them as a desirable alterna-
tive (Feldman-Summers & Ashworth, 1981).
Contextual characteristics. Sexual victimization occurs in certain
contexts, such as where they take place, when they occur, and what
other events are transpiring. In this regard, alcohol consumption and
drug use have played defining roles for many college students, even
among those younger than the legal drinking age. Such substance use
and abuse may have had health and behavioral consequences for stu-
dents (Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Moeykens, & Castillo, 1994).
It is most noteworthy that research has consistently shown that stu-
12 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
dents who frequently partake in alcohol and/or drug use generally
have a higher risk of criminal victimization than those who do not
(Fisher et al., 1998). It is also plausible that students’ probability of
reporting may be decreased if the victimization occurred when vic-
tims and/or offenders have been under the influence. Thus, using three
experimental studies, Ruback and his colleagues (1999) found evi-
dence for a general belief among college student respondents that
crimes against intoxicated students, especially those younger than the
legal drinking age, should not be reported to the police. However,
alcohol consumption did not affect students’ advice that victims
should notify other agencies or handle the crimes themselves.
The classic rape. Finally, some scholars have proposed that there
is a set of circumstances that, when combined, increase the probabil-
ity of rape reporting. This set of characteristics has been defined as
meeting the criteria of the classic rape, defined by the seriousness
and location of the events and by the victim-offender relationship
(Weis & Borges, 1973; Williams, 1984). That is, the classic rape has
been depicted as one perpetrated by a stranger in an unfamiliar,
deserted place that results in obvious physical injury to the victim
(Weis & Borges, 1973). As such, rapes corresponding to the classic
rape scenario have been more likely to be reported to the police
(Bachman, 1998; Finkelhor & Ormrod, 1999; Gartner & Macmillan,
1995, Pino & Meier, 1999). Presumably, these same offense charac-
teristics would also have applied to the reporting of other forms of
sexual victimization.
REPORTING TO OTHERS
Although it is well documented that sexual victimization has been
likely to go unreported to the police, these incidents of victimization
may have been disclosed to persons outside of the criminal justice sys-
tem. In fact, research suggests that both juveniles and adults were
more likely to tell authorities other than the police following incidents
of violent victimization when the incidents occurred at school
(Finkelhor & Ormrod, 1999). This pattern of disclosure was similar
for victims of sexual offenses (see Koss et al. 1987). Thus, Pitts and
Schwartz (1993) found that more than three fourths of rape victims tell
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 13
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
someone, typically a female friend, about their experience. Similarly,
other research has found that the majority of persons who were sexu-
ally victimized confided in a friend; however, few told family mem-
bers or health or social work professionals (Dunn, Vail-Smith, &
Knight, 1999; Golding, Siegel, Sorenson, Burnam, & Stein, 1989). A
separate study on the factors that influence potential rape victims to
report incidents found that women were more likely to tell their hus-
bands, boyfriends, or other intimates than the police about their expe-
rience (Feldman-Summers & Ashworth, 1981).
In light of these findings, a limited amount of research has explored
the influence that third parties have on victims’crime-reporting deci-
sions. For potential victims, the stronger womens’ belief that their
husbands or close friends would have wanted them to report to the
police, the greater is their intention to report (Feldman-Summers &
Ashworth, 1981). Similarly, Burgess and Holstrom’s (1975) research
on rape victims revealed that 75% of women contacted the police after
someone else decided to report or assisted the victims in seeking help.
Less encouraging, in a study of college women, only 5% of the first
person told another’s rape experience suggested that the women report
the incident to the police (Pitts & Schwartz, 1993).
Research has suggested, however, that victims of sexual offenses
report the assault to persons to gain support rather than to seek specific
advice (Biaggio, Brownell, & Watts, 1991; Frazier & Burnett, 1994;
Golding et al., 1989). That is, victims turned to informal sources of
support they considered to be most helpful (Biaggio et al., 1991; Dunn
et al., 1999; Golding et al., 1989). In a study of 3,132 adults, Golding
et al. (1989) found that although sexual assault victims considered the
police to be an unlikely source of help, friends and relatives were
judged to be helpful. More than half of all respondents who had expe-
rienced assault told friends or relatives about their experiences.
Two other factors may have played a role in diminishing reporting
not only to the police but also to others in their social circle. First,
researchers found that many rape survivors may not tell anyone about
their experiences if they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs
at the time of the incident (Pitts & Schwartz, 1993). These women
may remain hidden rape victims because of self-blame due to percep-
14 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
tions that women are somehow more culpable for their victimization if
they have consumed alcohol (Koss, 1985; Pitts & Schwartz, 1993).
Second, women often have not reported their sexual victimization
because they did not perceive themselves to be victims of rape
(Ruback, Greenberg, & Westcott, 1984). In fact, in two studies, only
27% of victims whose incidents met the legal definition of rape
defined themselves as having been raped (Koss, 1988; Pitts &
Schwartz, 1993). It is possible that those individuals who did not per-
ceive their victimization as being rape would have been less likely to
share their experience with others.
RESEARCH STRATEGY
This study attempted to build on the existing literature in several
ways. First, this study analyzed national-level data with detailed mea-
sures to uncover sexual victimization–reporting practices by college
women. Although research exists on college victimization, few stud-
ies have examined data from national samples in the United States.
Perhaps the most notable national study of sexual victimization of col-
lege women was conducted during the mid 1980s by Koss et al.
(1987). Despite substantively extending the literature, numerous
changes in postsecondary education have occurred since Koss et al.’s
20-year-old study was done in the early 1980s. For example, enroll-
ment of women in college and universities has significantly increased
during the past decade (U.S. Department of Education, 1993). More-
over, the changing social context and legal requirements mandated at
these institutions may have altered the likelihood of women reporting
their victimization on self-report surveys and to campus authorities
(see Fisher, Hartman, Cullen, & Turner, in press). To address these
issues, this study used current national-level data to investigate the
reporting of sexual victimization incidents by female college students.
A second advance this study attempted to make was methodologi-
cal. This study has built on the methodological work done by Koss
et al. (1987) and advances made by Kilpatrick and his colleagues
(1992) and Tjaden and Thoennes (2000). As discussed more thor-
oughly in the Measurement Strategy section, we have extended their
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 15
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
work by employing a two-stage measurement strategy used by the
NCVS.
Third, few studies have examined the likelihood of reporting across
multiple forms of sexual victimization. Most research has focused on
the reporting of attempted or completed rapes (Bachman, 1998; Wil-
liams, 1984). Research that has employed a wider conceptualization
of sexual victimization is limited and has focused on all adult women
rather than on college women (see Gartner & Macmillan, 1995; Kil-
patrick et al., 1987). To effectively measure reporting of a broad range
of sexual victimization, this study measured incidents ranging from
rape to sexual harassment, including attempted, threatened, and com-
pleted acts.
Fourth, as noted, studies have identified how characteristics of
offenders, victims, and incidents influence reporting of sexual victim-
ization. Few studies, however, have focused simultaneously on more
than one of these categories of predictors or have explored the impact
of multiple factors within each category. For example, studies rarely
have included, in a single analysis, detailed information concerning
victimization incidents and individual measures of victim and offen-
der characteristics. To fill this void, this study used specific incident-
level information for each victimization and measured incident char-
acteristics and individual factors to assess the determinants of
reporting.
Fifth, the majority of previous research examined the extent of and
the factors that affect reporting of sexual victimization to the police.
This study investigated reporting to police as well as reporting to cam-
pus officials and to third parties. In doing so, we were able to investi-
gate the extent to which sexual victimization incidents are reported to
people other than the police. Furthermore, we explored how determi-
nants of reporting vary according to whether incidents are disclosed to
the police, campus authorities, or other people known to victims.
Finally, the results of this study have implications for the ongoing
debate between feminist and conservative scholars over the extent to
which sexual victimization is a problem that warrants intervention.
Accordingly, the closing sections of this article discuss the salience of
the findings for these competing perspectives.
16 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
METHOD
SAMPLING DESIGN
The results reported in this study are part of a larger project, the
National College Women Sexual Victimization study. Using computer-
aided telephone interviews, professionally trained female interview-
ers administered the survey to a national-level sample of 4,446 female
college students enrolled at 233 selected postsecondary institutions
during the spring of 1997. Institutions were selected using a probabil-
ity proportionate to the size of the female enrollment to ensure there
was an adequate number of female students from which to randomly
select to meet the needed sample size. Of the total institutions
selected, there were 194 four-year schools and 39 two-year schools.
Female students were then randomly selected within each institution
included in the project. The response rate was 85.6% (for a detailed
description, see Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000).
MEASUREMENT STRATEGY
Our measurement strategy was patterned after (a) studies measur-
ing sexual victimization through behaviorally specific screen ques-
tions and (b) the two-stage measurement process used in the NCVS.
We combined these two measurement strategies with our two-stage
measurement process. The approach potentially allowed for a more
accurate method of measuring sexual victimization (Fisher & Cullen,
2000).
In the first stage, each respondent was asked a series of sexual vic-
timization behaviorally specific screen questions—that is, questions
that use graphic language to describe specific kinds of sexual victim-
ization. The purpose of these questions was to prompt respondents to
remember any victimization that may have occurred within the refer-
ence period. Thus, building closely on the work of Kilpatrick and his
colleagues (1992) and Tjaden and Thoennes (2000), we developed a
series of behaviorally specific screen questions that described conduct
that ranged from completed rape to threatened sexual contact (for a list
of these questions, see Fisher & Cullen, 2000).
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 17
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
A particular methodological advantage of the NCVS’s measure-
ment process is that it does not rely exclusively on screen questions to
measure whether victimization occurred. Instead, in the NCVS, a sec-
ond stage in the measurement process called an incident report, was
also employed. Thus, those who answer “yes” to any screen question
are then asked a series of detailed questions about the incidents. These
questions, not the screen questions, are used to categorize what vic-
timization, if any, was experienced.
Note that an important critique of the NCVS is that, especially in
the case of sexual victimization, its screen questions are not suffi-
ciently detailed to prompt those who have been victimized to report
(see Fisher & Cullen, 2000). Consistent with recent research, why we
employed behaviorally specific screen questions. However, following
the NCVS methodology, we used a second stage—the incident report—
to classify victimization. Thus, if respondents answered “yes” to any
of the behaviorally specific screen questions, they were given an inci-
dent report that included questions designed to confirm what type of
victimization, if any, had transpired. Previous studies in this area
either have not included an incident report (i.e., they have employed a
one-stage measure) or have not used follow-up questions given to
respondents to categorize the victimization experienced (see Fisher,
Daigle, Cullen, & Turner, 2002).
Similar to the NCVS, the incident report was valuable because it
asked detailed questions about the characteristics of the victim,
offender, incident, and reporting of the victimization. As will be seen,
the information from the incident report provided measures for the
core variables in this study. Hence, the unit of analysis is the incident.
Finally, our analysis focused on 1,318 incidents of sexual victim-
ization experienced by 691 respondents. Respondents were asked to
refer to their victimization experience since the beginning of the 1996
fall term. On average, respondents were interviewed 6.9 months after
the beginning of the 1996 fall term, so the time period the study cov-
ered was approximately 7 months.
DEPENDENT VARIABLES
Three measures of reporting were used in the analysis to determine
if respondents decided to disclose an incident. First, respondents were
18 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
asked if they or someone else reported the incidents to any police
agency. If the incident was reported to any police agency, they were
then asked to which police agency they reported. Police agencies
included on-campus police or security departments, off-campus local
or city police, county sheriff, or state police. This variable was labeled
reporting to any police agency.
In addition, reporting to others was measured by asking if they told
anyone else other than or in addition to the police about the incident. If
they did report the incident to a third party, respondents were then
asked whom they told. The second measure, reporting to at least one
campus authority, was created using this information. Campus
authorities1included campus law enforcement, residence hall advi-
sors, deans, professors, other college authorities, and on-campus bosses,
employers, or supervisors. The third measure employed was reporting
to at least one person other than a police agency or a campus authority
(see notes in Table 2 for definitions of the different types of person).
These categories were not mutually exclusive because respondents
could have indicated they told more than one type of person. For
example, respondents could have told their parents and a friend about
their experience.
INDEPENDENT VARIABLES
Incidents, offenders, victims, and contextual characteristics were
operationalized to measure their possible influences on victims’ deci-
sions to report their sexual victimization.
Incident characteristics. For our analysis, the following four types
of sexual victimization were employed: (a) rape, (b) sexual coercion,
(c) sexual contact, and (d) threats. Each of these types, with the excep-
tion of threats, include completed and attempted acts. We recognize
that not all of the incidents defined as sexual victimization would qual-
ify as criminal acts. To distinguish the four types of victimization, we
created three dummy variables (see Table 1). The seriousness of inci-
dents was measured with the following three variables: (a) if respon-
dents suffered any injury, (b) the presence of a weapon, and (c) if vic-
tims considered the incident to be rape.
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 19
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
20 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
TABLE 1: Descriptive Characteristics of the Incidents
Descriptive Characteristics of the
Incidents of Sexual Victimization %
n
Incident characteristics
Type of sexual victimization
Rape 11.9 157
Sexual coercion 16.8 221
Sexual contact 54.9 723
Threatsa16.5 217
Seriousness
Injury
Yes 5.5 73
Noa94.5 1243
Presence of a weapon
Yes 1.7 22
Noa98.3 1292
Victims considered incident rape
Yes 6.3 82
Noa93.7 1222
Offender characteristics
Victim-offender relationships
Known othersb7.5 99
Current or ex-intimatesc12.6 165
Strangers 20.9 274
Fellow studentsd27.8 365
Friendsa, e 31.3 411
Offender-victim race/ethnicity
Different 20.8 272
Samea79.2 1037
Victim characteristics
Age
Mean age 21.4 1318
Standard deviation 3.1
Younger than legal drinking age and
drinking alcohol at time of incident
Yes 21.4 280
Noa78.6 1030
Races/ethnicities
African American non-Hispanic 5.0 66
Latina or Hispanic 6.8 90
Other non-Hispanica3.6 47
White non-Hispanica84.6 1112
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Offender characteristics. Research has consistently reported that
characteristics of offenders may affect decisions to report. To take
these types of characteristics into account, we included the following
two measures: (a) the victim-offender relationship and (b) whether
victims’ race/ethnicity was different or the same as offenders’ race/
ethnicity. The victim-offender relationship was measured using the
following five categories: (a) current or ex-intimates, (b) fellow stu-
dents, (c) known others, (d) strangers, and (e) friends.
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 21
Family classes
Upper class 9.2 121
Upper middle class 41.1 541
Middle class 36.6 482
Working class 12.1 159
Poor 1.0 13
Contextual characteristics
Locations
Fraternity 6.5 85
Campus property 7.8 103
Living quarters 38.9 511
All other locationsa46.8 616
Drinking alcohol and taking drug behavior
Both offender and victim drank alcohol
and/or took drugs prior to incidentsf41.7 522
Offender drank alcohol and/or took drugs
and victim did not do either 26.9 337
Offender did not drink alcohol and/or take
drug and victim did either or both 1.5 19
Neither offender nor victim drank
alcohol or took drugsa29.8 373
a. Reference group used in the multivariate models.
b. This category includes professors, teachers, graduate assistants, teaching assis-
tants, employers, supervisors, bosses, coworkers, stepfathers, and other male
relatives.
c. This category includes current and former husbands, boyfriends, or lovers.
d. This category includes classmates or fellow students.
e. This category includes friends, roommates, housemates, suitemates, or
acquaintances.
f. The categorization is based on victims’ responses to questions about their behavior
prior to the incidents and their perceptions of the offenders’ behavior.
TABLE 1 (continued)
Descriptive Characteristics of the
Incidents of Sexual Victimization %
n
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Victim characteristics. A set of four independent variables mea-
sured the individual characteristics of victims. Consistent with previ-
ous victimization research, the demographic characteristics included
age of the respondents and their race/ethnicity. A third victim charac-
teristic, family class, that was measured by asking respondents to
identify their class of origin while growing up, was included.
Recent work by Ruback et al. (1999) has suggested that being under
the legal drinking age and drinking alcohol (underage drinker) may
influence victims’ decisions to report to the police. Hence, our fourth
measure, victims drinking alcohol and being under the legal drinking
age when incidents took place, was also included in the analysis.
Contextual characteristics. Studies have reported that both
offender use and victim use of alcohol and/or drugs prior to or at the
time of the incidents may affect victims’decisions to report incidents
(Pitts & Schwartz, 1993; Ruback et al., 1999). To measure the context
of incidents, we employed two variables. First, because sexual victim-
ization can transpire in various places, we included a contextual mea-
sure of the locations of the incidents. The following four locations
were used in our analysis: (a) in living quarters, (b) at a fraternity, (c)
on campus property but not in living quarters, and (d) all other loca-
tions. Second, we included a measure of alcohol and/or drug use on
the part of victims and offenders. We included a measure that took into
account if both offenders and victims drank alcohol and/or took drugs
prior to the incidents, if one did and the other one did not, and if neither
did.
MULTIVARIATE STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
To estimate the effects of the independent variables on our three
measures of reporting, we estimated three multivariate logit models.
A statistical issue arose during our estimation of the models. Just
more than 47% of victims experienced more than one sexual victim-
ization; hence, our incidents for these respondents were clustered
within respondents. That is, the incidents were not independent within
respondents but were independent across respondents. We corrected
for this violation in the assumption of independence of incidents
because if we did not make this correction, our traditional standard
22 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
errors would not be correct. We estimated robust standard errors (also
known as Huber, White, or sandwich standard errors) to be able to
make valid statistical inferences about the significance of our coeffi-
cients (see StataCorp, 2001b).
DESCRIPTIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INCIDENTS
As a prelude to exploring the reporting behavior of the victims in
the sample, we present the characteristics of the sexual victimization
incidents, offenders, victims, and context in Table 1. As seen in this
table, some of the incident-level characteristics exhibited much varia-
tion, whereas other characteristics did not. To illustrate, more than
half the incidents (55%) experienced by respondents were sexual con-
tacts. Nearly 12% of the incidents were rapes, whereas sexual coer-
cion and contact were each nearly 17% of the incidents. Only one in
five incidents involved injury, and less than 2% involved the presence
of a weapon. In a little more than 6% of all the incidents, respondents
answered “yes” to the question, “Do you consider this incident to be a
rape?”
In the majority of the incidents, victims knew their assailants; typi-
cally, respondents identified the assailants as friends or fellow stu-
dents. In only 20.9% of the incidents did respondents identify offend-
ers as strangers. In 78.7% of the incidents, respondents reported that
the offenders were of the same race.
The majority of the incidents involved women who were on aver-
age 21 years old and White non-Hispanic. Incidents were committed
almost equally against students who came from upper- or upper-middle-
class families and those who came from middle-class, working-class,
or poor families. Just more than 20% of the incidents involved respon-
dents who were younger than the legal drinking age.
Nearly half of the incidents took place in living quarters or fraterni-
ties; a little less than half occurred in other locations that are primarily
off campus. Of the incidents, 70% (n= 878) involved alcohol or drug
consumption by victims and/or offenders. Alcohol consumption by
victims was involved in just more than 43.2% of the incidents (n=
541), whereas alcohol consumption by offenders happened in 68.7%
of the incidents (n= 859). In 29.3% of the incidents, neither victims
nor offenders had consumed alcohol or taken drugs.
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 23
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
RESULTS
Tables 2 and 3 present the descriptive information on victims’deci-
sions to report the incidents. As Table 2 reveals, a very low percentage
of victims (2.1%) reported their victimization to the police and 4.0%
reported their victimization to campus authorities. Among on-campus
incidents, just more than 5% were reported to campus authorities.
A cross-tabulation of the data showed that all the incidents that
were reported to any police agencies were also disclosed to someone
else. This is also the case for all the incidents reported to any campus
24 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
TABLE 2: Victims’ Decisions to Report Incidents to Officials and Disclose Inci-
dents to Someone Other Than Police or Campus Authorities
Victims’ Decision %
n
Reported to officials
Reported to any police agencies 2.1a27
Reported to any campus authorities 4.0 37
On-campus incidents only 5.3 27
Victims disclosed incident to people other than
police or campus authoritiesb69.9 919
Victims disclosed incident to
Friendsc87.9 808
Family membersd10.0 92
Intimatese8.3 76
Other personsf3.3 30
Other authority figuresg1.7 16
Counseling servicesh1.0 9
Reported to any police agencies and disclosed
to someone else 2.1 27
Reported to any campus authorities and
disclosed to someone else 4.0 37
a. The percentages refer to telling at least one person in the specific category.
b. Percentage may exceed 100 as respondents could give multiple responses as to
whom they told. Each specific category includes telling at least one type of person who
was included in that category.
c. Category includes friends, roommates, suitemates, or housemates.
d. Category includes parent, parents, or family members other than parents.
e. Category includes husbands, boyfriends, or partners.
f. Category refers to other nonspecified persons.
g. Category includes off-campus employers, bosses, or supervisors.
h. Category includes women’s programs or services, victims’ services hotline, clergy,
rabbi, or other spiritual leaders.
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
authorities because all the incidents reported to any campus authori-
ties were also disclosed to someone else (see the last two rows of
Table 2).2
Looking at Table 3, the results indicated that even among com-
pleted and attempted rapes, fewer than 5% were reported to the police
and an even lower percentage were reported to campus authorities.
Reports for most other forms of sexual victimization ranged from none
to very few of the incidents being reported to the police or campus
authorities. Reports to officials of threats of rape and of sexual contact
with force did climb to about 10% of the incidents, but the small num-
ber of incidents involved made the percentages potentially prone to
substantial fluctuation, with only a couple of incidents being reported.
In contrast, although victims were unlikely to report incidents to
formal officials, they tell others about their victimization experiences.
Thus, in about 70% of the incidents, victims disclosed their victimiza-
tion to someone other than the police. Most often, this person was a
friend (in 87.9% of these incidents). Family members and current inti-
mates were the second and third most cited people to be told, but they
were contacted in only 10% and 8.3% of the incidents, respectively.
As seen in Table 3, the percentages of incidents reported to someone
other than police and/or campus authorities differed by type of victim-
ization. To illustrate, a larger percentage of sexual contact incidents
were told to someone else compared with the other three types of
sexual victimization (74.1% compared with 66.2%, 62.9%, and 65.9%).
It is relevant that for completed and attempted rapes, approximately
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 25
TABLE 3: Type of Victimization Reported to Any Police Agencies and/or Cam-
pus Authorities and Whether Told to Someone Other Than Police and/
or Campus Authorities
Told to Someone
Reported to Any Reported to Any Other Than Police and/
Type of Police Agencies Campus Authorities or Campus Authorities
Victimization % (
n
)%(
n
)%(
n
)
Rape 4.5 (7) 3.2 (5) 66.2 (104)
Sexual coercion 0.0 (0) .9 (2) 62.9 (139)
Sexual contact 1.4 (10) 2.8 (20) 74.1 (533)
Threats 4.6 (10) 4.6 (10) 65.9 (143)
Totals 2.1 (27) 2.8 (37) 69.9 (919)
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
two thirds of the incidents were reported to someone else. Again, this
was a large proportion in comparison with the percentage of incidents
disclosed to the police, which was fewer than 5% for both rape catego-
ries. This pattern was evident across all the types of victimization.
Again, Tables 2 and 3 reveal that most college women who are sex-
ually victimized do not report their victimization either to the police or
to campus authorities. In Table 4, the reasons for not reporting to law
enforcement officials are explored by types of victimization. By far
the most frequently given responses for not reporting were incident-
related reasons. Across all victimization categories, in 81.7% of the
incidents, college women stated they failed to report incidents to the
police because the events were not serious enough. In 42.1% of the
incidents, respondents did not disclose the events to the police because
they were not sure a crime or harm was intended. In approximately
30% of the incidents, respondents believed the police would not think
the incidents were serious enough, whereas in about 20% of the inci-
dents, women stated that the police would not want to be bothered and/
or that they lacked proof the incidents happened. Beyond incident and
criminal justice characteristics, in approximately 20% of the inci-
dents, women expressed a reluctance to report incidents because they
did not want their families (18.3%) or other people to know about their
victimization (20.9%). And in 19% of the incidents, respondents said
they did not report the incidents because they were afraid of reprisals
by their assailants or other people.
Although some variation was present, the general pattern of rea-
sons given for not reporting to the police was fairly consistent across
types of victimization. Still, there were some tendencies in the reasons
given for not reporting rape incidents that may warrant attention. Sim-
ilar to other victimization categories, the reason most frequently given
for not reporting was that the incidents were not serious enough. In
contrast, victims of completed and/or attempted rape were more likely
to link their failure to report to not wanting family members and others
to know of the victimization (38.9% of the incidents), not having proof
of the incidents (36.9%), and being fearful of reprisals (32.9%). For
these three reasons, the totals across all victimization incidents were,
respectively, about 20%, 23.2%, and 19%.
Finally, in Table 5, we present the results of the multivariate logit
analysis of the three types of reporting behavior: to any police agency,
26 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
TABLE 4: Type of Victimization by Reasons Incidents Not Reported to Any Police Agencies
27
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
28 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
TABLE 5: Who Was Told About the Incidents?: Mulitvariate Logit Model Results
Who Was Told About the Incidents?
Someone
Other Than
Any Police Any Campus the Police or
Agencies Authorities Campus Authorities
Characteristics
of Incidents
b
(SE)
b
(SE)
b
(SE)
Victimization characteristics
Type of victimization
Rape –.94 (1.02)a–.60 (1.02) .06 (.26)
Sexual coercion b–.34 (.89) –.05 (.25)
Sexual contact –1.75 (.62)*** –.36 (.54) .35 (.19)*
Seriousness
Injury 1.06 (.71) 1.76 (.68)*** .71 (.31)**
Presence of weapon 1.83 (.94)** 1.41 (.80)* .67 (.50)
Victims considered
incident rape 2.05 (.87)** .70 (.82) –.31 (.31)
Offender characteristics
Victim-offender relationships
Current or ex-intimates 1.03 (.97) –.25 (.90) –.31 (.25)
Fellow students –.49 (.84) –.04 (.72) .11 (.18)
Known others 1.69 (.98) 2.43 (.85)*** .55 (.30)*
Strangers 2.87 (.79)*** 1.62 (.80)* .22 (.22)
Offender-victim races/
ethnicities different 1.10 (.52)** .55 (.43) –.16 (.21)
Victim characteristics
Age –.09 (.06) –.13 (.06)** –.02 (.03)
Underage drinker at time
of incidents –.76 (1.16) .58 (.65) –.02 (.23)
Races/ethnicities
African American
non-Hispanic 1.76 (.73)** –.50 (.69) –.13 (.38)
Latina or Hispanic –.36 (1.23) –1.40 (1.27) –.18 (.30)
Family class –.40 (.28) –.52 (.26)** –.10 (.09)
Contextual characteristics
of incidents
Locations
Living quarters –.04 (1.0) .40 (.70) .10 (.16)
Fraternity bb –.13 (.30)
Campus property 2.31 (.74)*** 2.27 (.64)**** .12 (.28)
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
to any campus authority, and to someone other than the police or cam-
pus authority. Victimization characteristics significantly affected the
probability that incidents were reported to any police. First, similar to
past studies, reporting to the police was more likely when the incidents
were more serious (i.e., weapons were present or the victims defined
the events as rape). Second, sexual contacts but not rapes were less
likely than were threats of sexual victimization to be reported to the
police.
Offender and victim characteristics played significant roles in
determining the likelihood that victimization was reported to the
police. First, incidents involving strangers were more likely to be
reported than were those involving friends. Second, incidents in
which the race/ethnicity of offenders and victims was not the same
were more likely to be reported to the police than were incidents in
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 29
Drinking alcohol and
taking drugs
Both offender and victim
drank alcohol and/or took
drugs prior to incidents –.30 (.91) –1.83 (.76)** .60 (.22)***
Either offender or victim
drank and/or took drugs
prior to incidents .70 (.72) .06 (.49) .46 (.19)***
Constant –2.79 (1.86) –.75 (1.71) .61 (.63)
Wald model χ2133.25 78.56 42.10
df
19 20 21
Significance .0000 .0000 .0041
a. Robust variance estimates were employed to compute the standard errors
(StataCorp, 2001a).
b. Variable perfectly predicts not telling respective entities. Variable cannot be used in
the estimation of the model (StataCorp, 2001b).
*
p
< .10. **
p
< .05. ***
p
< .01. ****
p
< .001.
TABLE 5 (continued)
Who Was Told About the Incidents?
Someone
Other Than
Any Police Any Campus the Police or
Agencies Authorities Campus Authorities
Characteristics
of Incidents
b
(SE)
b
(SE)
b
(SE)
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
which race/ethnicity was the same. Third, supportive of Bachman’s
(1998) results, incidents in which victims were African American stu-
dents were more likely to be reported to the police than were those
incidents involving White non-Hispanics or students of other races/
ethnicities.
A contextual characteristic of the incidents was also important. The
analysis revealed that incidents on campus property were more likely
to be reported to the police than were those that occurred off campus.
The more serious incidents were significantly more likely to be
reported to campus authorities (e.g., incidents that involved injuries or
in which weapons were present). Victim-offender relationships were
also salient as to the probability of incidents having been reported to
any campus authorities. Compared with when offenders were friends,
victims were more likely to report incidents in which the assailants
were either strangers or known others (i.e., someone they knew but
who was not a fellow student or a current or ex-intimate).
Victim characteristics were significant in decreasing the likelihood
that incidents were reported to any campus authorities. Incidents
involving younger and lower family class victims were significantly
less likely to be reported to any campus authorities.
Two contextual characteristics of the incidents had significant
impacts on reporting to campus authorities. As could be expected,
incidents that happened on campus property were more likely to be
reported to campus authorities. If both offenders and victims were
drinking or had taken drugs, the incident was less likely to be reported
to campus authorities.
As for reporting to someone other than police or campus authori-
ties, victims’decisions to disclose their incidents were more likely for
sexual contacts, when they sustained injuries, and when the offenders
were known others. Notably, in contrast with the finding for campus
authorities, they were more likely to tell someone of their victimiza-
tion if their assailants and/or they had been drinking or taking drugs
prior to the incidents.
Across all three types of victimization, it was difficult to discern any
factors that clearly prompted victims’ decisions to report. Reporting to
the police seems structured more by the characteristics that may make
the victimization seem more believable to law enforcement officials:
That is, the sexual victimization involved demonstrable evidence that
30 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
the incident had taken place (e.g., injury) and was committed by a
stranger. As for the other forms of reporting to campus authorities and
someone other than the police (mainly friends), key factors were (a)
whether any injuries occurred, (b) victim-offender relationship, and
(c) whether alcohol and/or drugs were present. The precise impact of
these factors on the two types of reporting, however, was not always
consistent.3
DISCUSSION
Similar to previous research, only a low percentage of college
women who were sexually victimized reported these incidents to the
police. Even when the offense involved was a completed or attempted
rape, supportive of Koss et al.’s (1987) findings, fewer than 1 in 20
incidents was brought to the attention of law enforcement officials. As
we noted previously, not all of the incidents defined as sexual victim-
ization would qualify as criminal acts. Even so, regardless of where
one might draw the line in defining victimization as criminal, the find-
ings of this study do not change: Incidents, including rapes, are not
reported to the police or to campus authorities but are reported to oth-
ers. Consistent with previous research, including the literature on clas-
sic rapes (Estrich, 1987; Williams, 1984), there was a tendency for
sexual victimization to be reported to police when incidents involved
the presence of weapons, were committed by strangers, and took place
on campus but outside living quarters. Again, these features are likely
to serve as prima facie evidence that women were sexually victimized
and thus provide confidence that a report to enforcement officials
would be seen as believable. In contrast, the presence of alcohol and/
or drugs made the reporting of incidents less likely, perhaps because
victims perceived that their use of these substances would diminish
their credibility. Finally, victims’ definition of incidents as rape also
increased the probability of reporting incidents to officials.
Still, the central point is that respondents refrained from contacting
the police about most of their incidents of victimization. Furthermore,
women in our sample also were reluctant to involve campus authori-
ties. These authorities were notified in only 2.8% of all incidents of
victimization and in 3.2% of all rapes. Why is there such a low report-
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 31
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
ing of sexual victimization incidents to the police and to campus
authorities?
A feminist perspective might suggest that the extremely low pro-
portion of incidents reported cannot be attributed simply to the general
low reporting by college students of criminal events. In fact, as noted
previously, college women report victimization by other violent
crimes at a much higher level (Fisher & Cullen, 1999). Instead, femi-
nists would likely maintain that patriarchal influences in society,
including on college campuses, provide barriers to reporting. In our
data on rape incidents, for example, one third to 40% of the sample
stated they did not report incidents to the police because they lacked
proof that the incident happened, were afraid of reprisals, and did not
want their families or other people to know about their victimization.
Reasons such as these suggest that sexual assault victims believed that
proof beyond their testimony was needed to secure police action, that
they would not be protected if they disclosed their assailants’ identi-
ties, and that a sexual victimization was something sufficiently embar-
rassing or shameful that it should even be kept from their families. Our
study does not have data on whether victims experienced self-blame,
but the finding that alcohol limits reporting is consistent with the pos-
sibility that this may have had some influence. As noted, there is some
evidence that when victims consume alcohol, they may perceive that
they have contributed to their own sexual victimization. In a feminist
view, however, such cognitions are a reflection of sexist cultural
beliefs that create a context conducive to the continued victimization
of women by men. Notably, in 7 of 10 incidents, alcohol and/or drugs
were present.
The findings of our study, however, also might be interpreted by
conservative commentators as reinforcing their view that most events
reported as sexual victimization on surveys such as Koss et al.’s (1987)
and ours are not really victimization (see Gilbert, 1997; Roiphe,
1993). In this conservative perspective, feminists are portrayed as
advocacy researchers who employ survey methods that count as rape
and sexual assault events that supposed victims do not define as crimi-
nal. Either implicitly or explicitly, ideology is held to trump science,
with conservatives accusing feminists of interpreting shaky survey
findings as showing definitively that the sexual victimization of
women by men is not rare but widespread. The feminist political
32 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
agenda, according to critics, is to use such claims to reinforce the
notion that patriarchy’s influence is extensive and in need of radical
change. The real effects, say the critics, are that advocacy research cre-
ates unwarranted fears among college women, encourages women to
view themselves as oppressed, increases gender conflict, and creates
sexual turmoil in intimate relationships (Gilbert, 1995, 1997).
In our data, conservatives would likely use one finding to support
their position that the sexual victimization of college students is over-
stated: in 8 of 10 incidents, respondents stated they did not report their
victimization to the police because it was not serious enough. Even for
rape, this reason was given for 7 of 10 incidents. The implication of
these data is obvious: If college women, arguably a bright and privi-
leged group, did not define the incidents in question as serious, then
perhaps their failure to report matters to the police reflected a rational
decision that nothing of consequence really occurred. In this view, the
study’s methodology manufactured sexual victimization that, reveal-
ingly, the women themselves perceived as nonserious and at worst as
men acting badly, not criminally.
Three considerations lead us to question the conservatives’ inter-
pretation. First, a salient research issue is what students mean when
they define incidents as not serious enough to report. For conserva-
tives, the phrase not serious is taken in a strictly literal sense as mean-
ing that the incidents were unimportant. For feminists, however, such
a response may merely indicate a false consciousness expressed by
women acculturated to see their victimization as somehow accept-
able. It may also reflect a rational assessment in which female victims
decide that reporting coerced sexuality is not worth turning in fellow
students when such an act may incur negative reactions from their
peers and no real action from the criminal justice system. That is, the
events may be appraised as lacking seriousness not according to an
objective standard but relative to what reporting the incidents actually
entails. In any case, before definitive interpretations can be ventured,
detailed qualitative studies need to be undertaken of women’s cogni-
tive understandings of sexual victimization incidents.
Second, conservative critics often question the methodological
rigor of sexual victimization studies, with the endpoint being that the
estimates produced by this research are artifacts of faulty measure-
ment strategies. We cannot claim that our study is beyond reproach,
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 33
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
but its design was formulated to ensure that incidents would only
count as victimization when respondents answered detailed questions
in the incident report. That is, we did not merely rely on behaviorally
specific questions to determine whether victimization transpired but
confirmed or disconfirmed its occurrence through the incident report.
Accordingly, it is unlikely that the events counted as victimization in
our study did not really happen or that they are the inventions of dis-
traught women. In short, we believe that we are on fairly firm ground
in maintaining that most incidents, including those that legally satisfy
the definition of rape, are not reported to police or campus authorities.
Third and perhaps most important, our data show that approxi-
mately 7 in 10 sexual victimization incidents apparently are not
treated as trivial but are serious enough for college women to tell oth-
ers about what happened to them. In the case of rape incidents, for
example, there is about a 60 percentage point difference between the
percentage of rapes reported to the police or to campus authorities and
the percentage told to others. Although not definitive, findings such as
these suggest that women counted as victims by our methodology did
in fact experience sexual victimization that could have been but were
not reported to law enforcement and school officials.
These findings also suggest that we need systematic research into
why victims of sexual assault, including rape, do not tell the police but
do tell those in their social circles about what happened to them. We
suspect that one profitable line of research will be to investigate more
fully how the context surrounding victimization affects how women
interpret not only what happened to them but also what represents
appropriate responses on their part. Most of the incidents reported by
respondents in our study involved assailants that women knew,
occurred when offenders and/or victims had been drinking or taking
drugs, and were often located in living quarters. Sexual victimization
that occur in such contexts may leave women burdened and in need of
support from friends. But such contexts may, in a number of ways,
make turning to authorities unappealing. Thus, when women are alone
and drinking with men in private residences, typically late at night, it is
difficult to prove not only that an assault was perpetrated but also that
consent was not given. Furthermore, in those circumstances, women
not only may engage in self-blame but also may be unsure as to
34 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
whether their assailants had the criminal intent to rape or assault. In
contrast, because the victimization was real and disturbing, victims
sought out help from friends and fellow students. In short, they handle
the incidents informally, not formally.
Finally, college officials wishing to address the larger problem of
the sexual victimization of female students might gain one important
lesson from this research: Although officials are informed about only
a fraction of incidents, many students on their campuses might have
victimization incidents disclosed to them. We know relatively little
about how disclosure of victimization affects recipients of this infor-
mation and about whether these students should lend informal sup-
port, urge victims to seek counseling, and/or encourage victims to
seek legal solutions by reporting the incidents to the police and cam-
pus authorities. Regardless, future research that explores these matters
in more detail is needed. In a more applied domain, it would also seem
prudent for campus officials charged with administering sexual
assault awareness programs to provide the general population of stu-
dents with guidance as to what steps they should take when sexual vic-
timization is reported to them.
NOTES
1. The reason why these types of persons were included in the campus authority category was
the requirements in the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime
Statistics Act (1998). All public and private institutions of postsecondary education participat-
ing in federal student aid programs are subject to this act. The act requires these institutions to
gather crime statistics, including on rape and assault, from campus police or security and from
other school officials who have significant responsibility for student and campus activities. Pro-
fessional mental health and religious counselors are exempt from reporting obligations.
2. Because there was no variation in these two variables with respect to telling someone else,
we could not include them as independent variables in our multivariate logit models because
they were prefect predictors of telling someone else (StataCorp, 2001a). (See notes in Table 5 as
to the other independent variables that were prefect predictors of reporting.)
3. One reviewer suggested that we include a variable to measure whether incidents were
committed against women who were enrolled in same-sex institution. Of the 1,318 incidents, 16
involved women (n= 9 victims) who were enrolled in all-women institutions. Only one of these
incidents was reported to the police, none was reported to school authorities, and nine were told
to someone else. Given the small number of incidents, we decided not to include this variable in
our reporting models.
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 35
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
REFERENCES
Bachman, R. (1993). Predicting the reporting of rape victimizations: Have reforms made a dif-
ference? Criminal Justice and Behavior,20, 254-270.
Bachman, R. (1998). The factors related to rape reporting behavior and arrest: New evidence
from the national crime survey. Criminal Justice and Behavior,25, 8-29.
Biaggio, M. K., Brownell, A., & Watts, D. L. (1991). Reporting and seeking support by victims
of sexual offenses. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation,17, 33-42.
Burgess, A. W., & Holstrom, L. L. (1975). Rape: The victim and the criminal justice system. In
I. Drapkin & E. Viano (Eds.), Victimology: A new focus (pp.101-110). Lexington, MA: D.C.
Heath.
DeKeseredy, W., & Schwartz, M. D. (1998). Woman abuse on campus: Results from the Cana-
dian National Survey. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Dukes, R. L., & Mattley, C. L. (1977). Predicting rape victim reportage. Sociology and Social
Research,62, 63-84.
Dunn, P. C., Vail-Smith, K., & Knight, S. M. (1999). What date/acquaintance rape victims tell
others: A study of college recipients of disclosure. Journal of American College Health,47,
213-222.
Estrich, S. (1987). Real rape. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Feldman-Summers, S., & Ashworth, C. D. (1981). Factors related to intentions to report a rape.
Journal of Social Issues,37, 53-70.
Felson, R. B., Messner, S. F., & Hoskin, A. (1999). The victim-offender relationship and call the
police in assaults. Criminology,37, 931-947.
Finkelhor, D., & Ormrod, R. (1999, November). Reporting crimes against juveniles. OJJDP
Juvenile Justice Bulletin, pp. 1-7.
Finkelson, L., & Oswalt, R. (1995). College date rape: Incidence and reporting. Psychological
Reports,77, 526.
Fisher, B. S., & Cullen, F. T. (1999). Violence against college women: Results from a national-
level study (Final report submitted to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, March 1999). Washing-
ton, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Fisher, B. S., & Cullen, F. T. (2000). Measuring the sexual victimization of women: Evolution,
current controversies, and future research. In D. Duffee (Ed.), Criminal Justice 2000: Vol. 4.
Measurement and analysis of crime and justice (pp. 317-390). Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
Fisher, B. S., Cullen, F. T., & Turner, M. G. (2000). The sexual victimization of college women.
Washington,DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Jus-
tice Statistics.
Fisher, B. S., Daigle, L. E., Cullen, F. T., & Turner, M. G. (2002). Acknowledging sexual victim-
ization as a rape: Results from a national-level study. Unpublished manuscript, Division of
Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati.
Fisher, B. S., Hartman, J., Cullen, F. T., & Turner, M. G. (in press). Making campuses safer for
students: The Clery Act as a symbolic legal reform. Stetson Law Review.
Fisher, B. S., Sloan, J. J., Cullen, F. T., & Lu, C. (1998). Crime in the ivory tower: The level and
sources of student victimization. Criminology,36, 671-710.
Frazier, P. A., & Burnett, J. W. (1994). Immediate coping strategies among rape victims. Journal
of Counseling & Development,72, 633-639.
Gartner, R., & Macmillan, R. (1995). The effect of victim-offender relationship on reporting
crimes of violence against women. Canadian Journal of Criminology,37, 393-429.
36 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Gilbert, N. (1995). Violence against women social research and sexual politics. In R. J. Simon
(Ed.), Neither victim nor enemy: Women’s Freedom Network looks at gender in America
(pp. 95-118). Lanham, MD. Women’s Freedom Network and University Press of America.
Gilbert, N. (1997). Advocacy research and social policy. In M. Tonry (Ed.), Crime and justice:
An annual review of research (pp. 101-148). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Golding, J. M., Siegel, J., Sorenson, S. B., Burnam, M. A., & Stein, J. A. (1989). Social support
sources following sexual assault. Journal of Community Psychology,17, 92-107.
Greenberg, M. S., & Ruback, R. B. (1992). After the crime: Victim decision making. New York:
Plenum.
Greenfeld, L. A., Rand, M. R., Craven, D., Klaus, P. A., Perkins, C. A., & Ringel, C., et al.
(1998). Violence by intimates: Analysis of data on crimes by current or former spouses, boy-
friends, and girlfriends. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
Hanson, R. F., Resnick, H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. (1999). Factors
related to the reporting of childhood rape. Child Abuse and Neglect,23, 559-569.
Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, 20 U.S.C.
§1092 (f) (1998).
Kilpatrick, D. G., Edmunds, C. N., & Seymour, A. K. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the
nation. Arlington, VA: National Victim Center.
Kilpatrick, D. G., Saunders, B. E., Veronen, L. J., Best, C. L., & Von, J. M. (1987). Criminal vic-
timization: Lifetime prevalence, reporting to police, and psychological impact. Crime and
Delinquency,33, 479-489.
Koss, M. P. (1985). The hidden rape victim. Psychology of Women Quarterly,48, 61-75.
Koss, M. P. (1988). Hidden rape: Sexual aggression and victimization in a national sample in
higher education. In A. W. Burgess (Ed.), Rape and sexual assault (pp. 3-25). New York:
Garland.
Koss, M. P., Gidycz, C. A., & Wisniewski, N. (1987). The scope of rape: Incidence and preva-
lence of sexual aggression and victimization in a national sample of higher education stu-
dents. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology,55, 162-170.
Laub, J. H. (1981). Ecological considerations in victim reporting to the police. Journal of Crimi-
nal Justice,9, 419-430.
Lizotte, A. (1985). The uniqueness of rape: Reporting assaultive violence to the police. Crime
and Delinquency,31, 169-190.
Orcutt, J. D., & Faison, R. (1988). Sex-role attitude change and reporting of rape victimization,
1973-1985. Sociological Quarterly,29, 589-604.
Pino, R., & Meier, F. (1999). Gender differences in rape reporting. Sex Roles: A Journal of
Research,40, 979-990.
Pitts, V. L., & Schwartz, M. D. (1993). Promoting self-blame in ridden rape cases. Humanity and
Society,17, 383-398.
Pollard, P. (1995). Rape reporting as a function of victim-offender relationship: A critique of the
lack of effect reported by Bachman (1993). Criminal Justice and Behavior,22, 74-80.
Reiss , A. J., Jr. (1971). The police and the public. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Rennison, C. M. (1999). Criminal victimization 1998: Changes 1997-98 with trends 1993-1998
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey). Washington, DC: Gov-
ernment Printing Office.
Roiphe, K. (1993). The morning after: Sex, fear, and feminism on campus. Boston: Little, Brown.
Ruback, R. B., Greenberg, M. S., & Westcott, D. R. (1984). Social influence and crime-victim
decision making. Journal of Social Issues,40, 51-76.
Ruback, R. B., Menard, K. S., Outlaw, M. C., & Shaffer, J. N. (1999). Normative advice to cam-
pus crime victims: Effects of gender, age, and alcohol. Violence and Victims,14, 381-396.
Fisher et al. / REPORTING SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION 37
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Russell, D. E. H. (1983). The prevalence and incidence of forcible rape and attempted rape of
females. Victimology,7, 81-93.
Skogan, W. G. (1976). Citizen reporting of crime: Some national panel data. Criminology,13,
535-549.
Sloan, J. J., Fisher, B. S., & Cullen, F. T. (1997). Assessing the student right-to-know and Cam-
pus Security Act of 1990: An analysis of the victim reporting practices of college and univer-
sity students. Crime and Delinquency,43, 148-168.
StataCorp. (2001a). Reference guide: Release 7.0. College Station, TX: Stata Corporation.
StataCorp. (2001b). Users guide: Release 7.0. College Station, TX: Stata Corporation.
Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Extent, nature, and consequences of intimate partner vio-
lence: Findings fromthe National Violence Against Women Survey (National Institute of Jus-
tice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Washington, DC: Government
Printing Office.
U.S. Department of Education. (1993). Fall enrollment statistics, 1991. Washington, DC: Gov-
ernment Printing Office.
Wechsler, H., Davenport, A., Dowdall, G., Moeykens, B., & Castillo, S. (1994). Health and
behavioral consequences of binge drinking in college: A national survey of students at 140
campuses. Journal of the American Medical Association,272, 1672-1677.
Weis,K., & Borges, S. (1973). Victimology and rape: The case of the legitimate victim. Issues in
Criminology,8, 71-115.
Williams, L. S. (1984). The classic rape: When do victims report? Social Problems,31,459-467.
38 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR
at GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY on June 22, 2009 http://cjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... Despite such prevalence, it is known that incidents of sexual assault are underreported within the criminal justice system (Kelly & Stermac 2008:31;Brennan & Taylor-Butts 2008:2). Studies estimate that between 1% and 16% of sexual assault victims report their crimes (Abel & Rouleau 1990; Kong et al. 2003:6;Besserer & Trainor 1999;Bolen & Scannapieco 1999;Fisher et al. 2003;Kelly & Stermac 2008). ...
... Often victims explain that they feel at fault because they got drunk, were dressed in a way that invited attention, fear of revenge from the accused, or they sent mixed messages (Skelton & Burkhart 1980;Fisher et al. 2003 impact on the decision to report to the justice system. In particular, those assaulted by strangers are far more likely to report than those assaulted by people they know (Skelton & Burkhart 1980;Fisher et al. 2003;Felson & Pare, 2005;Allen 2010;Weiss, 2011). ...
... Often victims explain that they feel at fault because they got drunk, were dressed in a way that invited attention, fear of revenge from the accused, or they sent mixed messages (Skelton & Burkhart 1980;Fisher et al. 2003 impact on the decision to report to the justice system. In particular, those assaulted by strangers are far more likely to report than those assaulted by people they know (Skelton & Burkhart 1980;Fisher et al. 2003;Felson & Pare, 2005;Allen 2010;Weiss, 2011). Bachman (1998) found that victims who were assaulted by strangers were more likely to report to police than those victimized by intimate partners. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
The following thesis considers the issue of reporting sexual victimization. The research asks: What factors contribute to a victim's decision not to report sexual assault to the police? The thesis utilizes the General Social Survey from 2009 examining data from those who reported being sexually assaulted between February of 2008 and February of 2009 (n=548). Cross tabulation analysis was run on the factors thought to influence decision making, against the reasons that people stated for not reporting their sexual assault to police. The perception of police bias by the victim, fear of revenge, and believing the incident was a personal matter were found to be significant in terms of the relationship to the offender as well as social networks. A multi-variate regression model was used in order to determine the odds ratios for a number of factors including the relationship of the offender, trust the victim has in family, whether or not they confided in social networks and their marital status. Results show that those who were assaulted by acquaintances or talked to medical personal were less likely to report, and those who were assaulted by family, talked to their families, or were married were more likely to report the assault. The findings of the study are consistent with the literature from the past thirty years in that victim blaming appears to still play a significant role in the decision to report to police or not. The research also indicates that social networks may play a critical role in the decisions of sexual assault victims, but ultimately concludes that this area is under researched and more research is needed.
... Despite such prevalence, it is known that incidents of sexual assault are underreported within the criminal justice system (Kelly & Stermac 2008:31;Brennan & Taylor-Butts 2008:2). Studies estimate that between 1% and 16% of sexual assault victims report their crimes (Abel & Rouleau 1990; Kong et al. 2003:6;Besserer & Trainor 1999;Bolen & Scannapieco 1999;Fisher et al. 2003;Kelly & Stermac 2008). ...
... Often victims explain that they feel at fault because they got drunk, were dressed in a way that invited attention, fear of revenge from the accused, or they sent mixed messages (Skelton & Burkhart 1980;Fisher et al. 2003 impact on the decision to report to the justice system. In particular, those assaulted by strangers are far more likely to report than those assaulted by people they know (Skelton & Burkhart 1980;Fisher et al. 2003;Felson & Pare, 2005;Allen 2010;Weiss, 2011). ...
... Often victims explain that they feel at fault because they got drunk, were dressed in a way that invited attention, fear of revenge from the accused, or they sent mixed messages (Skelton & Burkhart 1980;Fisher et al. 2003 impact on the decision to report to the justice system. In particular, those assaulted by strangers are far more likely to report than those assaulted by people they know (Skelton & Burkhart 1980;Fisher et al. 2003;Felson & Pare, 2005;Allen 2010;Weiss, 2011). Bachman (1998) found that victims who were assaulted by strangers were more likely to report to police than those victimized by intimate partners. ...
Thesis
The following thesis considers the issue of reporting sexual victimization. The research asks: What factors contribute to a victim's decision not to report sexual assault to the police? The thesis utilizes the General Social Survey from 2009 examining data from those who reported being sexually assaulted between February of 2008 and February of 2009 (n=548). Cross tabulation analysis was run on the factors thought to influence decision making, against the reasons that people stated for not reporting their sexual assault to police. The perception of police bias by the victim, fear of revenge, and believing the incident was a personal matter were found to be significant in terms of the relationship to the offender as well as social networks. A multi-variate regression model was used in order to determine the odds ratios for a number of factors including the relationship of the offender, trust the victim has in family, whether or not they confided in social networks and their marital status. Results show that those who were assaulted by acquaintances or talked to medical personal were less likely to report, and those who were assaulted by family, talked to their families, or were married were more likely to report the assault. The findings of the study are consistent with the literature from the past thirty years in that victim blaming appears to still play a significant role in the decision to report to police or not. The research also indicates that social networks may play a critical role in the decisions of sexual assault victims, but ultimately concludes that this area is under researched and more research is needed.
... Extant research has found that very few students actually use campus resources or contact campus officials about SV (Fisher et al., 2003;Krebs et al., 2016;Sabina & Ho, 2014;Spencer et al., 2017;Stoner & Cramer, 2019;Walsh et al., 2010) for a number of reasons, including not knowing who to contact or where to go. At the most basic level, if IHEs have a chance at effectively handling sexual misconduct, members of the campus community need to be aware of campus-based help-seeking efforts and processes. ...
... For example, survivors might use mental health counseling services, the campus health center, and on-campus advocates (Cantor et al., 2020;Graham et al., 2020;Nasta et al., 2005;Sabri et al., 2019;Walsh et al., 2010). However, despite the presence of these services on many campuses, very few students actually use campus resources or contact campus officials about SV (Fisher et al., 2003;Krebs et al., 2016;Sabina & Ho, 2014;Spencer et al., 2017;Stoner & Cramer, 2019;Walsh et al., 2010). The question that scholars have attempted to answer is why? ...
Article
Institutions of higher education have attempted to respond to students’ experiences of sexual victimization by developing resources and processes for addressing sexual misconduct. However, extant research suggests that students rarely use campus-based resources and many students lack knowledge about campus services and the processes that institutions of higher education take to respond to sexual misconduct. This study uses data from a campus climate survey at one midsized southeast university to examine students’ perceived and actual knowledge about help-seeking and policies and procedures (i.e., mandatory reporting, investigation mandates, confidential resources, accommodations for survivors) at their university. Additionally, we explore gaps in their knowledge of these measures ( N = 2261). We also consider the factors that predict these outcomes. On average, students report moderate perceived knowledge about help-seeking on campus. However, roughly 67% did not have a fully comprehensive and accurate understanding of policies and procedures to address sexual misconduct at the university. These findings are problematic, as institutions of higher education rely on survivors coming forward to report their experiences and participate in investigative processes when detecting and elevating complaints. We highlight implications for institutions of higher education.
... Although these approaches may be fine for certain traumatic events, they are questionable in reference to traumatic events that are often misunderstood within society. For example, many victims of sexual assault fail to recognize the trauma that has occurred, especially if there is a relation to the perpetrator (Fisher et al., 2003). With sexual violence, it has been found that behaviorally-defined items garner higher rates of reporting than less-behaviorally specific items (up to 11 times; Fisher, 2009). ...
Article
Objective: Secondary traumatic stress (STS), vicarious trauma (VT), and burnout (BO) are work-related outcomes commonly ascribed to mental health workers, given their exposure to clients' traumatic experiences. It is theorized that a worker's own history of trauma increases the occurrence of these outcomes, through retraumatization/activation of threat cues during client interactions and overinvolvement with a client's progress. Given the inconsistencies in the literature and the ubiquity of trauma among workers, a systematic review was conducted to examine the association of personal trauma and the 3 related, but separate, work outcomes. Method: A systematic search strategy was used across relevant research databases (Cochrane, JSTOR, PsycINFO, PubMed) for empirical studies conducted from 2000-2021. In accordance with PRISMA guidelines, a four-phase selection process was used, resulting in 39 studies identified meeting the inclusion criteria. Results: A clear (positive) association between personal trauma history and STS and VT were identified, whereas mostly null findings were observed in regard to BO. The majority of studies were conducted in Western countries, adopted questionnaires as the primary means of data collection, and all but one were cross-sectional in design. Conclusion: In addition to a lack of diversity in study design, there were conceptual limitations to the research conducted (e.g., treating victims as a unitary group, neglecting the inclusion of mechanisms). To assist in moving the field forward, five research recommendations are outlined with the goal of creating greater clarity in the work-outcomes literature and increased nuance in how personal trauma is understood. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... In line with the theoretical frameworks provided by Ruback et al. (1984) and Weiss (2011), situational and contextual factors have consistently been associated with the labeling process in gender-based victimization. The use of physical force and severity of an incident, including whether a weapon was present or an injury sustained are significant situational predictors of an incident being labeled sexual assault or rape (Bondurant, 2001;Fisher et al., 2003;Kahn et al., 2003). Further, relational factors, such as the victimoffender relationship, have also been found to play a role in the likelihood of a victim to label an incident as sexual assault, with victims who know their assailant less likely to label or report the incident (Kahn et al., 2003;Ruback, 1993) as have factors such as geographical location of an incident and engagement in other risky behaviors such as alcohol use (Kahn et al., 2003;Ruback & Ménard, 2001). ...
Article
Many crime victims do not report their victimization and rates of reporting are disparate across crime types. While research has established victims are least likely to report sexual assault, less known is whether the crime discounting process affects reporting rates and whether this process differs by crime type. This paper thus examines reporting for robbery, sexual assault, and physical assault incidents, particularly exploring victims who indicated their incident was "not a crime." Using the National Crime Victimization Survey (n = 15,012) and a series of logistic regressions, this study found that, holding a number of incident-level correlates constant, crime type was the most salient predictor of reporting to police and nonreporting because the incident was "not a crime."
Article
Relatively few victims of gender-based violence (GBV) seek help from nonprofit organizations, healthcare providers, or law enforcement agencies, choosing instead to disclose to friends and family or to nobody at all. This article presents a systematic review of GBV research in sociology showing that, despite low rates of formal service utilization, 68% of published articles use data from organizations including social service providers, hospitals, and police stations and courts. While data from organizations are essential for understanding the experiences of people who report to them, they may not be generalizable to victims broadly. Victims who seek formal help may differ from those who do not in their relative social advantage—along lines of race, socioeconomic status, gender identity, and more—and in their understandings of and responses to violence. We discuss how more non-organizational research might broaden our understanding of violence experienced by society’s most marginalized, elucidate ways to make formal organizational responses more inclusive, and sensitize stakeholders in the anti-GBV movement to interventions outside of the therapeutic and carceral state.
Article
Rape survivors who submit to a medical forensic exam generally expect the resulting rape kit to be tested, but hundreds of thousands of rape kits have been left untested in police storage facilities nationwide. The current study sought to understand what the experience of having an untested rape kit was like for survivors. Using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis, this study examined narratives of 15 survivors whose rape kits had been part of the rape kit backlog. Analysis suggested that survivors experience an extreme sense of betrayal and loss of faith in the criminal justice system when their kits are not tested. For these survivors, the rape kit was more than just evidence in a box; it was part of them. Implications are discussed.
Article
Sexual violence (SV) is common among college students, but the vast majority of these experiences are not formally reported to institutions of higher education (IHEs). While it is well known that alcohol and drug use is highly associated with SV, little is known about whether policies and procedures regarding substance use (SU) at IHEs may contribute to low rates of reporting. This study describes the association between SU violations and SV reporting at IHE campuses in the US and examines whether SU amnesty policies are associated with more SV reporting. Linear regression was used to estimate the association between SU violations and SV reporting and assess differences between IHE campuses by amnesty policy status. Around 50% of campuses between 2001 and 2018 document neither SV reports nor SU violations. IHE campuses with amnesty policies have more SV reports. On average, IHEs with amnesty policies have 2.7 SV reports per 1000 students and an additional 0.02 SV reports for each SU violation per 1000 students. Amnesty policies that reduce the potential costs of reporting like facing disciplinary action for alcohol or drug use are positively associated with both the level and rate of SV reporting. Institutions of higher education administrators interested in making reporting an option for more SV survivors should examine how their policies, especially those related to alcohol, may play in creating barriers to SV reporting.
Chapter
Having presented the findings from 20 studies involving a variety of methodologies, we now introduce a theoretical framework that gives conceptual coherence to these findings. The proposed model, which emerged from our own empirical work and the work of others, offers several advantages. It provides an explanatory tool for comparing the decisions of various types of victims. In addition, it allows for the integration of the present findings with the existing literature on victim decision making. Further, the model suggests directions for future research, while at the same time laying the foundation for public policy decisions (see Chapter 10).
Article
The Historical, Social and Political Context of the Canadian National Survey on Woman Abuse in Dating The Incidence and Prevalence of Woman Abuse in Canadian Courtship 'But Women Do It Too' The Meanings of and Motives for Women's Use of Violence Risk Factors and Dating Abuse Progressive Policy Proposals