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Sexual Assault on College Campuses: Substance Use, Victim Status Awareness, and Barriers to Reporting



Background: Despite the high incidence of estimated sexual assault on college campuses, underreporting is substantial and perpetuated by a culture of rape myths that are pervasive across society in general and college campuses. Aim: The aim of this study was to: examine college student awareness of their own sexual assault victimization status, barriers to reporting, and the prevalence of substance use in sexual assault. Method: This was a cross-sectional mixed-method survey sent to a universal sample of college students from two neighboring institutions of higher education (N=2,724). Results: Results from this survey demonstrated a lack of understanding of what constitutes sexual assault, primarily attributed to the normalization of assault and rape myths. Regardless of victim status awareness, those who were victimized were significantly more likely to use higher levels of alcohol than non-victims, and were less likely to identify their victimization as sexual assault, highlighting the need for college students to understand that alcohol-involved sexual assault is still sexual assault. Conclusions: Overwhelmingly, participants cited the potential consequences as far greater than any potential benefits to reporting sexual assault. Confusion about what constitutes sexual assault and uncertainty of available resources were also recognized as contributing factors in underreporting.
Building Healthy Academic Communities Journal Vol. 1, No. 2, 2017
© 2017 Schwarz, Gibson, & Lewis-Arévalo. This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
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Sexual Assault on College Campuses: Substance Use, Victim Status Awareness, and Barriers to Reporting
Jill Schwarz, PhD, NCC
Sandy Gibson, PhD, LCSW
Carolynne Lewis-Arévalo, MA
The College of New Jersey
Background: Despite the high incidence of estimated sexual assault on college campuses,
underreporting is substantial and perpetuated by a culture of rape myths that are pervasive across
college campuses and society in general.
Aim: The aim of this study was to: examine college student awareness of their own sexual assault
victimization status, barriers to reporting, and the prevalence of substance use in sexual assault.
Method: This was a cross-sectional mixed-method survey sent to a universal sample of college students
from two neighboring institutions of higher education (N=2,724).
Results: Results from this survey demonstrated a lack of understanding of what constitutes sexual
assault, primarily attributed to the normalization of assault and rape myths. Regardless of victim status
awareness, those who were victimized were significantly more likely to use higher levels of alcohol than
non-victims, and were less likely to identify their victimization as sexual assault, highlighting the need for
college students to understand that alcohol-involved sexual assault is still sexual assault.
Conclusions: Overwhelmingly, participants cited the potential consequences as far greater than any
potential benefits to reporting sexual assault. Confusion about what constitutes sexual assault and
uncertainty of available resources were also recognized as contributing factors in underreporting.
Submitted 5 December 2016: Accepted 20 July 2017
Keywords: Sexual assault, reporting, victim awareness, alcohol, rape culture
Incidences of sexual assault on college campuses are high, with an estimated one-in-four women being sexually
victimized during their college years (Hines, Armstrong, Reed, & Cameron, 2012; Orchowski & Gidycz, 2012).
Approximately half as many men experience such levels of victimization (Turchik, 2012). Roughly two-thirds of
victims will disclose to someone, usually a friend, rather than police or campus authorities (Fisher, Daigle, & Cullen,
2003; Foubert, Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Brasfield, & Hill, 2010). The limited rate of reporting to authorities is
influenced by ideas inherent in rape culture and social norms regarding responsibility for sexual assault and disguises
the true extent of the problem (Edwards, Probst, Tansill, Dixon, Bennett, & Gidycz, 2014). The 2014 National
Crime Victimization Survey estimated that fewer than 35% of U. S. sexual assaults occurring in 2013 were reported
to police (Truman & Langton, 2014), while on college campuses, less than 5% of assaults are reported to authorities
(Rubenfeld, 2014; Sinozich & Langton, 2014).
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This underreporting is perpetuated by a culture of rape myths that are pervasive across society in general and
college campuses, specifically. Rape myths involve false beliefs about sexual assault and commonly deny or
minimize impact and promote victim blaming (Powers, Leile, Hagman & Cohn, 2015). It is the perpetuation of such
rape myths that contribute to rape culture, which Burnett et al. (2009) define as “environments that support beliefs
conducive to rape and increase risk factors related to sexual violence” (p. 266). Rape culture impacts the way that
victims, perpetrators, and bystanders view sexual assault.
Social Norms
Social norms theory is predicated on the idea that people’s behavior and attitudes are influenced by their perception
of what others believe. This perception, regardless of its accuracy, often has a powerful influence on behavior. The
connection between social norms and attitudes and behaviors regarding sexual assault has been highlighted in recent
research (Bosson, Parrot, Swan, Kuchynka, & Schramm, 2015; Aronowitz, Lambert, & Davidoff, 2012; Potter &
Stapleton, 2012). The beliefs inherent in rape culture are dangerous, as these “social norms” are predictive of men’s
comprehension of sexual consent, as well as the actual perpetration of sexual assaults (both single and repeat
offenses) (Warren, et al., 2015; Zinzow & Thompson, 2015). On college campuses, a widespread social norm
regarding rape is that the victim is at least partially responsible if they had consumed alcohol or drugs prior to or
during the assault (Cowley, 2014). In fact, recent research has found that over 40% of college students believed that
a woman was responsible for being raped if she was intoxicated at the time of the assault (Aronowitz, et al., 2012).
This social norm has implications that can perpetuate sexual assault, as it falsely places responsibility on victims and
lessens accountability for perpetrators, which can impact the prevalence of sexual assault as well as the likelihood of
reporting. Interventions targeting beliefs about rape supportive social norms are recommended as a preventative
education strategy to reduce rape supportive behaviors and sexual assault (Bosson. et al., 2015; McMahon, 2015;
Potter & Stapleton, 2012).
Victim Status Awareness
Victims of nonconsensual sexual contact on college campuses often fail to recognize it as a crime, particularly when
they know the perpetrator (Fisher, Daigle & Cullen, 2003; Jones, Alexander, Wynn, Rossman, & Dunnuck, 2009).
Fisher, Cullen & Turner (2000) found that 45% of rapes victims were unsure or unaware that a crime had been
committed. Acts of sexual coercion or forcible sex by a partner in an existing relationship are unlikely to be
considered sexual assaults, either by the victims or by others (Edwards et al., 2014; Follingstad & Rogers, 2013),
hindering incident reporting. Cleere and Lynne (2013) revealed that fewer than 25% of women who experienced
events that constituted rape actually described their experience as rape, despite over 80% reporting that they had
cried, screamed, pleaded, or physically struggled during the experience. More than half of those surveyed labeled
themselves as “not victimized,” or else they labeled the event as a “serious miscommunication” (p. 2597). College
students may be acculturated to consider sexual assault “not serious enough” to report (Fisher et al., 2003) and may
feel campus culture accepts a normalcy for sexual assault perpetration (Burnett et al., 2009), a concept often referred
to as rape culture.
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Unacknowledged Victims
Students’ reluctance to report unwanted sexual contact by friends or dating partners results in underestimates of the
prevalence of campus sexual violence and its impact on victims (Edwards et al., 2014; Sinozich & Langton, 2014)
and creates a population of students that Cleere and Lynn (2013) describe as “unacknowledged victims” (p. 2597).
Unacknowledged victims often do not realize that a crime has been committed (Belknap, 2010; Cleere & Lynn,
2013; Lewis-Arévalo & Seto, 2014); frequently know their attacker (Edwards et al., 2015); and are unlikely to report
the event to police or campus authorities (Orchowski & Gidycz, 2012; Ullman et al, 2008). Furthermore, by not
disclosing their experience, unacknowledged victims potentially miss out on timely support services to aid their
recovery and future wellbeing, such as counseling, information about their rights, and medical care, including the
collection of a rape kit (Orchowski & Gidycz, 2012; Sinozich & Langton, 2014; Wolitzky-Taylor et al., 2011).
Impact of Substance Use on Sexual Assault
Although sexual assault is assault regardless of substance use, alcohol and other drugs are contributing factors in
rape and sexual assault prevalence on college campuses (Edwards et al., 2014; Wilson, 2014). Studies reveal a strong
correlation between students’ intoxication and incidence of sexual assault (Hines et al., 2012; Krebs, Lindquist,
Warner, Fisher, & Martin, 2009; Pasky McMahon, 2008), with drug or alcohol-facilitated rape more than twice as
common (Hines et al., 2012; Krebs et al., 2009). In addition to the increased likelihood of victimization, intoxication
reduces the probability that victims hold their attacker responsible, label their experience as a sexual assault (Cleere
& Lynn, 2013; Jones et al., 2009), or report the experience (Edwards et al., 2014; Wolitzky-Taylor et al., 2011).
Victim self-blame. Intoxication at the time of sexual assault contributes to self-blame in many victims (Jones et
al., 2009), with 20% of victims blaming themselves (Edwards et al., 2014). Even for victims who had begged the
assailant to stop, assault by an acquaintance resulted in self-blame and minimizing the experience (Edwards et al.,
2014). Those who experienced negative judgment were even more likely to blame themselves and increase their
alcohol consumption following the assault (Jones et al. 2009; Sigurvinsdottir & Ullman, 2014). Self-blame impairs
psychological healing (Miller, Handley, Markman & Miller, 2010); and minimizing the assault can contribute to
future victimization (Edwards et al., 2014).
Expectation of Disbelief When Reporting
Fear of being doubted or mistreated by authorities (Orenstein, 2007; Rubenfeld, 2014) and institutional mishandling
(Orenstein, 2007; Sable, Danis, Mauzy, & Gallagher, 2006) are common reasons given for not reporting. Victims of
stranger-rape and those who sustained physical injuries reported incidents at a higher rate (Ullman et al., 2008),
possibly due to an expectation that their report would be believed and handled appropriately (Follingstad & Rogers,
2013; Wolitzky-Taylor et al., 2011). Threats from the accused, along with a growing realization of the toll it would
take to follow through with an investigation, are precursors to victims recanting their accusations (Adefolalu, 2014;
Sinozich & Langton). Such recantations can perpetuate this culture of disbelief, even though research shows that
less than 2% of reports are filed falsely (Lonsway, 2010).
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DNA evidence can substantiate sexual activity, but not consent. Therefore, absent of physical injury, it is
difficult to prove nonconsensual sex. This is especially true for victims in a current or previous relationship with the
perpetrator, who may use this history to deny guilt (Belknap, 2010; Menaker, Campbell & Wells, 2017). It is
important to note that regardless of relationship status between victim and perpetrator, assault is assault.
As rape culture promotes desensitization to sexual assaults on college campuses (Burnett et al., 2009), understanding
the prevalence of victim awareness status can serve as a barometer for college officials to gauge the severity of rape
culture on their campuses. This desensitization can also lead to limited reporting, which contributes to the
discrepancy in understanding accurate prevalence rates. This discrepancy is further exploited by such research
focusing only on those who recognize and identify their own victimization status. The current study categorizes
respondents as those who either are, or are not, aware of their own victimization status, and explores group
differences in rationale for non-reporting. The purpose of this study is to examine 1) college student awareness of
their own sexual assault victimization status, 2) differences between victims who are aware of their victimization
status and those who are not (unacknowledged victims) regarding their beliefs as to why most sexual assault victims
commonly do not report the incident, 3) and the role of alcohol and other drugs in sexual assault.
Participants and Procedure
Data for this mixed-methods study came from a universal sample of undergraduate students at two moderately
sized institutions of higher education in the mid-Atlantic region, one a public college of 6,135 undergraduate
students, and the other a private university in the same county with 4,400 undergraduate students. Students were
invited via e-mail to anonymously complete an online survey via Qualtrics survey software, with a lottery incentive
for a $350 Visa gift card offered for each campus. Due to the sensitive nature of some of the survey questions
regarding sexual assault, participants from each campus were provided with the contact information for their
perspective campus counseling centers. The Institutional Research Boards from both institutions approved the
collection of this data. The sample completing the survey at the public college was 2,034 (33% response rate), and at
the private university was 690 (16% response rate). The samples at each institution are both primarily female (public
= 60%, private = 72%), Caucasian (public = 75%, private = 78%), and college-aged (public mean age = 20.6 years,
SD = 1.37, private mean age = 20.3 years, SD = 3.34).
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Table 1: Demographics
Gender Academic Year
Male Female Freshmen Sophmores Juniors Seniors
Aware of victim
victim status
Not a victim
Alcohol Use Disorder Identifying Test. Alcohol use was assessed using the Alcohol Use Disorder Identifying
Test (AUDIT). The AUDIT was created to assess excessive drinking, alcohol dependence, and consequences of
harmful drinking (Babor, Higgins-Biddle, Saunders & Monteiro, 2001), and identify at-risk drinkers who are not
seeking treatment (DeMartini & Carey, 2012). The AUDIT is a 10-item questionnaire and examples of item topics
include, “frequency of drinking,” “impaired control of drinking,” and black outs (Babor, Higgins-Biddle,
Saunders & Monteiro, 2001) with possible scores ranging from 0 (minimal drinking or consequences) to 4 (high
frequency of drinking or harmful consequences), and total scores ranging from 0 to 40 (McCann, Simpson, Ries, &
Roy-Byrne, 2000). The AUDIT has good internal consistency ( 0.87) (MCannn et al., 2000) and is a valid
instrument to assess alcohol use among college students (Kokotailo Egan, Gangon, Brown, Mundt, & Fleming,
Drug Abuse Screening Test. The Drug Abuse Screening Test Short Form (DAST-10) is a brief self-report
instrument used to assess the use of illicit drugs other than alcohol in the last 12 months (McCabe, Boyd, Cranford,
Morales, & Slayden, 2006). Respondents are instructed to answer “yes” or “no” to each item, with example items on
the DAST-10 including, “using drugs other than those required for medical reasons” and “feeling bad or guilty
about drug use.” The DAST-10 has good internal consistency (α = .86), temporal stability (test-retest correlation
coefficient =.71), and concurrent validity (correlated .97) (Cocco & Carey, 1998), and is a valid instrument to assess
drug use among college students (McCabe, Boyd, Cranford, Morales & Slaydon, 2006).
Sexual Assault. Students were asked the following yes/no question about sexual assault victimization: Have
you ever been a victim of sexual violence on your campus?” Students who responded yes to this question were
categorized as aware of victim status and asked a yes/no question regarding if they contacted the police about the
assault. Those who indicated not contacting the police were asked the following open-ended question: Can you
please describe the reason(s) for your decision to not contact the police?”
Students were also asked the following yes/no question: “In the past year, have you been taken advantage of
sexually following your own drinking or drug use?Students who responded no to being a victim of sexual violence
and yes for being taken advantage of sexually after drinking or other drug use were categorized as unacknowledged
victims. In order to compare the responses from unacknowledged victims of sexual assault, they were asked the
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following: “Our research shows that women who experience sexual violence on college/university campuses
commonly do not report the incident. Why do you think that is?”
Data Analysis
First, we ran frequencies to determine the number of students who self-identify as victims of sexual assault, whether
or not they reported the assault, and if they report being taking advantage of sexually while under the influence of
alcohol. A new categorical variable was computed to reflect student awareness of victim status: 1) aware of victim
status, 2) unacknowledged victim status, and 3) not a victim. We then explored through Kruskal-Wallis tests
whether alcohol use, as measured by AUDIT score, and drug use, as measured by DAST score, are related to
awareness of victim status. A Kruskal-Wallis test determines if there are statistically significant differences between
two or more groups on continuous dependent variables, in this case testing the comparison of the three
victimization status groups on AUDIT and DAST scores.
In addition to quantitative evaluation, we incorporated thematic qualitative data analysis to gain a deeper
understanding of participants’ perspectives regarding reasons that sexual assault is not reported. Data consisted of
the word-for-word responses to the previously identified open-ended survey questions. Responses were separated
into categories dependent on victimization status. Researchers became familiar with the data through multiple
critical read-throughs, as responses from aware and unacknowledged victims were analyzed independently and then
compared. Open coding was utilized throughout analysis to elicit themes, determine patterns, and highlight
relationships across the data (Merriam, 2009). Code validation was achieved through review by two additional
researchers before themes were finalized. Efforts to increase dependability were employed through the use of an
audit trail, where a detailed account was recorded throughout the research inquiry regarding how data was collected
and analyzed. Themes from the data, as well as rich, thick description, including specific quotations from
participants as applicable, were provided to enhance transferability. This inductive approach enabled us to give
voice to victims’ viewpoints, as themes emerged from the data based on the words and perceptions of the
participants themselves.
Using the split case function of SPSS 21.0, the assumption of normality was evaluated using histograms and found
tenable for both all groups (aware victim, unacknowledged victim, and non-victim). However, the assumption of
homogeneity of variances was significant, Levene’s Test, F (2, 2154) = 10.98, p=.001, a violation of this assumption.
Given the unequal group sizes and the homogeneity of variances violation, Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to
examine the associations between student overall victim awareness status and AUDIT and DAST scores (Pallant,
2007; Tabachinick & Fidell, 2007). When the overall Kruskal-Wallis test was significant, pairwise comparisons were
performed using Mann–Whitney tests.
A Kruskal-Wallis H test showed that there was a statistically significant difference in AUDIT score between the
victim status categories, x2 (2) = 90.120, p = .001, with a mean rank AUDIT score of 1333.95 for those aware of
their victim status, 1522.87 for unacknowledged victims, and 1040 for those who did not identify as a victim.
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Table 2
Awareness of Victim Status and Alcohol Use__________________________________________
M SD Observed Range Possible Range
1. Aware of Victim Status
2. Unacknowledged Victim Status
3. Non-victims
Note. Alcohol Use as measured by the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT).
To more closely examine the nature of this relationship, we conducted three follow-up Mann-U Whitney tests
(Pallant, 2007). After a bonferroni correction, which adjusted the alpha level (p = .017) to account for the three
follow-up tests, we found that students who reported no victim history had lower AUDIT scores compared to
students who were aware of their victim status (U = 34177.5, z = -3.273, p = .001). Using Cohen’s (1992)
parameters, we determined that this was a medium effect size (d = .47). They also reported lower AUDIT scores
compared to students who were unacknowledged victims (U = 78750.0, z = -9.031, p = .001), a large effect size (d
= .80). There was not a significant difference in AUDIT scores between students who were aware of victim status
and those who were not (U = 2759, z = -2.154, p = .03). There were no significant differences in DAST scores
between any victim status categories.
Qualitative Findings
Qualitative responses were analyzed for two groups of participants who were assaulted: 1) aware of victim status
(n=54), 2) unacknowledged victim status (n=121). For the first group, participants who were aware of their sexual
assault victimization status, and did not report the assault, answered a prompt asking them to identify their reasons
for not reporting. The following three themes emerged from the majority of aware victims: fear and embarrassment,
personal connection with the perpetrator, and the presence of alcohol. In comparison, unacknowledged victims also
responded to a prompt asking why they believe people do not report sexual assault. The following five themes
emerged from their responses: rape culture, societal influence on perception of assault, doubt and uncertainty,
involvement of substances, and fear of retaliation. Many of the participants minimized the incident and thought
others would as well.
Why Victims Aware of Sexual Assault Did Not Report
1. Fear and embarrassment. The most common theme aware victims conveyed for not reporting sexual
assault centered around fear and embarrassment. Participants reported being afraid of backlash from others, being
in the spotlight, and not being believed or supported. Sometimes there was fear of being victimized again. As one
participant reported, “I was scared he'd do it again to me if I told (as he threatened). Coupled with fear was
embarrassment, as participants expressed concern about being blamed and the reactions of others if they reported.
One senior female shared, “Besides, the guy could always flip the story and make it seem like it was mutual and I
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didn't want to take the risk of being embarrassed.” It was clear that a sense of shame or embarrassment acted as an
impediment for reporting sexual assault. As one response detailed, “I was ashamed and embarrassed that I was
sexually assaulted. I was more worried about getting myself out of the situation. I didn't want anyone to know.
2. Personal connection with attacker. Knowing the attacker was cited as a main reason for not reporting the
sexual assault. Multiple participants expressed having some kind of personal relationship with their attacker (e.g.
friend, boyfriend, someone they were dating), which factored heavily in their decisions not to report. A common
reason given for not reporting was simply, “It was my friendor “I knew him.” Sometimes if the victim had been in
a relationship with the person at the time of the attack, it made the situation even more confusing. As one
participant noted, “It was with my boyfriend at the time and I didn't know it was sexual violence until after it
A personal connection with the assailant was also related to the victim minimizing the incident of sexual assault.
One participant connected these two concepts in her response: “It wasn't a big deal, and it was a friend.” Another
participant explained that since it was her boyfriend who committed the sexual assault, she believed that “contacting
the police was too extreme of a measure. Multiple responses indicated that participants minimized the incident to
the point of questioning the legitimacy of what had happened to them. Responses included statements such as: “It
didn't seem like a big enough deal;” “his advances weren't too intense so it wasn’t a big deal;” and “it was stopped
before anything seriously happened.” Some participants connected their own discounting of the issue to societal
messages regarding sexual assault and who is to blame. As one victim described, “Rape is socially acceptable, (so I)
saw (it) as (a) non-issue at the time.”
3. Alcohol. In addition to a personal connection between the perpetrator and victim, the presence of alcohol
was mentioned as one of the main reasons for not reporting an assault. Participants seemed to conceptualize the
sexual assault differently based on the presence of alcohol. They placed less blame on the assailant and more blame
on themselves. As one participant explained, “The guy probably didn't know how drunk I was. I don't want to ruin
his entire life.” They made statements such as, “I was drunk and felt like it was my fault and no one would believe
me.” Participants also believed that authorities would not take the situation seriously if alcohol had been involved.
Repeatedly, responses including being drunk or being at a party where drinking was taking place were given as
reasons for not reporting.
Often there was not one, but multiple reasons that an aware victim chose not to report sexual assault. Increasing
the complexity of the decision to report was the intersection of these factors. The multiple layers of concern that
ultimately result in victims not reporting are exemplified in the following response:
I was afraid of backlash from the guy/his organization/his friends, I was afraid that no one would believe
me. I was ashamed/embarrassed that I was sexually assaulted. I was more worried about getting myself out
of the situation. I didn't want anyone to now [sic]. I blamed myself.
Perspectives of Unacknowledged Victims
When unacknowledged victims (those who identified as being taken advantage of sexually, but did not self-identify
as victims of sexual assault) responded to the question of why people do not report, the overarching themes
centered around rape culture and involvement of alcohol. Similar to aware victims, embarrassment, fear, and a
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relationship with the attacker were identified as reasons that people do not report sexual assaults. Additionally,
several new themes were introduced or emphasized further with these respondents including: societal influence,
stigma, and rape culture; lack of awareness related to the meaning of sexual assault or available resources; belief that
nothing would be done or people would not believe them; lack of clarity or memory about the incident; and fear
specifically related to being attacked again by the perpetrator.
1. Rape culture. In response to the question of why women do not report sexual assault, the most prevalent
theme in unacknowledged victims’ responses overwhelming centered on themes inherent in rape culture, including
societal messages that normalize sexual assault and fear of being doubted. Participants cited “victim blaming” and
“slut shaming” and talked about women likely thinking they would be accused of “asking for it” or doing something
to prompt the attack. Unacknowledged victims wrote candidly about rape culture. One participant explained:
There is usually a stigma attached to admitting experience of sexual violence. Socially it is very difficult for a
woman to escape judgment because we have such a rape culture. Either ineffective punishment or useless
"solutions" are provided for the woman who experienced the violence. The female experience with sexual
violence is trivialized or girls are blamed for wanting it.
Respondents described societal messages that are critical of victims’ behavior and dress as influential in women’s
decisions not to report. The stigma and blame often experienced by victims were repeatedly cited as deterrents to
reporting. As one participant stated, “There is a stigma in this society where people blame victims, and not the
perpetrators.” The messages inherent in rape culture were mentioned as reasons that victims feared being blamed
by others and also why they blamed themselves.
2. Societal influence on perception of assault. Societal messages were also cited by the majority of
participants as a factor in the identification of an incident as sexual assault. The themes that emerged in this area
were particularly of note, as these were unacknowledged victims. They stated things such as, “I think cultural
attitudes make it difficult when to say you were ‘taken advantage of’ and when you were willingand “They don't
recognize that it is important -- social norms teach them that sexual advancements on women are normal -- nothing
important enough to be reported.” Unacknowledged victims explained that often women may not even know that
what happened to them was sexual assault and may not realize that the definition encompasses more than rape. This
is particularly salient on college campuses, as one participant noted, “I think they are hesitant to even recognize an
event as sexual violence. They feel as if it a normal occurrence in college and therefore isn't a big deal.”
Respondents described the confusion that victims might experience when deciding if they should talk about it and
from whom they should seek support. This group of respondents noted a lack of awareness around resources and
reporting procedures in their answers. They explained that victims might not know where, who, or how to report
the incident. One respondent stated her wish that victims “should know there are people out there willing to help.”
3. Doubt and uncertainty. Even when victims are aware of reporting options, respondents noted that they
may choose not to report because they believe nothing will be done or they will not be believed. One respondent
posed the question, “People don't believe them or blame them for it, so why try?” Responses included thoughts
that victims would fear not being taken seriously or being accused of “crying wolf.” Multiple responses centered on
the belief that nothing helpful would result from the reporting process, especially if there was not “hardcore
Building Healthy Academic Communities Journal Vol. 1, No. 2, 2017
evidence.” As one unacknowledged victim noted, “There's no incentive for a girl to report the violence, because
most of the time not enough action will be taken.”
Further complicating the decision to report were reasons centering on victims possibly being unsure or unable
to completely remember what happened to them. A respondent reasoned, “The risks seem greater than any reward
to a girl in college who may be unsure of what happened.” Multiple respondents mentioned that women may be
unsure about the details of the incident and therefore would not be able to effectively report it. One of the reasons
listed for lack of memory was intoxication from alcohol or drugs. As a respondent described, “Often, if there is
alcohol involved, the circumstances of the incident are blurred.”
4. Involvement of substances. Similar to the aware victimsresponses around the influence of the presence of
alcohol on reporting, unacknowledged victims also emphasized the prevalence of alcohol or substances as a
deciding factor in reporting. These respondents discussed that the involvement of alcohol might contribute to
victims taking more of the responsibility for the assault. They described how women might feel ashamed of being
drunk and “putting themselves in an unsafe situation” or embarrassed at “losing control.” Other responses
explained how authorities might tell victims they were at fault for drinking too much or even drinking at all.
Multiple respondents in this group also identified the risk of reporting if the victim was underage drinking or taking
illegal drugs with many listing drug or alcohol use as a deterrent for reporting. One unacknowledged victim
explained, “Punitive measures for underage alcohol abuse are far too strict in accordance with the goal of wanting
victims to come forward.”
5. Fear of retaliation. In addition to the fear of getting in trouble because of underage drinking, the fear of
retaliation from the perpetrator was emphasized repeatedly amongst unacknowledged victims. Although
embarrassment and fear were listed numerous times as reasons for not reporting in both groups, the fear of
potentially being attacked again was particularly salient with unacknowledged victims. The reason for this fear was
sometimes coupled with the previously mentioned lack of confidence in the outcome of reporting. Responses
included, “They are afraid that worse things will happen to them after they report it” and “They may fear that the
person who committed the offense will do it again if they tell.”
Overall, respondents suggested that there was more risk of harm than help available when reporting. In addition
to potential retaliation from the attacker, backlash from friends and family, judgment from others, disbelief or
blaming of the victim, and potential social and legal consequences were listed as barriers to reporting. As a
participant noted about reporting sexual assault in college, “the risks seem greater than any reward.”
Consistent with existing literature, in this study both aware and unacknowledged victims of sexual assault reported
higher levels of alcohol use than non-victims. This was a prevalent reason offered from both groups as to why
sexual assault is not reported. Researchers report higher levels of alcohol use as both a method of coping with the
distress caused by victimization (Stappenbeck, Hassija, Zimmerman & Kaysen, 2015) and a predictor of sexual
assault (White & Hingson, 2013). Cowley (2013) further expands on this to include how alcohol use, in combination
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with rape myths and gender norms, work together to not only promote, but normalize male dominance and
violence against women on college campuses.
While both groups of respondents (aware and unacknowledged victims) described the presence of alcohol and
knowing the perpetrator personally as reasons for not reporting, societal influence, stigma, and rape culture were
emphasized much more among unacknowledged victims. This suggests that not only do these messages impact the
likelihood of reporting, but also seem to influence if an incident is even recognized as an assault by those who are
taken advantage of sexually. Rape culture, which contributes to minimizing victimization and promoting self-blame,
influences a reporting process that further disempowers victims. Due to mandatory reporting requirements of Title
IX officers on college campuses, a student’s formal report of sexual assault results in an investigation, leaving the
consequences to the perpetrator outside of the control of the victim. In this study, the potential risks and
consequences of reporting were a main reason given for not reporting sexual assault.
Media exposure of collegiate sexual assault, and public dialogue that often blames the victim and even glorifies
the perpetrator, can lead victims to question the legitimacy of their own victimization and deter reporting. A recent
example is the publication of convicted rapist, Brock Turner’s competitive swim times in articles about the assault
(LaChance, 2016; Preza, 2016). Furthermore, students may question their institutions ability to respond to reports
of sexual assault effectively and in a manner that respects and protects victims. This questioning is not without
merit, as Smith and Freyd (2013) reported that institutional failure to respond effectively to sexual assault and
effectively support victims (a concept they term “institutional betrayal”) exacerbates post-traumatic symptomatology
and causes additional harm to victims.
It appears as though victims calculate an informal cost-benefit analysis when determining whether or not to
report their victimization, with factors including: 1) Will I remember enough facts to report effectively? 2) Will the
reporting entity believe me? 3) Will I, or others with me that day get in trouble because I was underage drinking or
using drugs when this occurred? 4) Will the outcome of reporting be helpful or safe for me? 5) Will my peers
believe and support me? 6) Will there be retaliation from the perpetrator or their friends? and 7) Is any of this really
my fault? A combination and intersection of factors appear to influence victims’ decisions to report. It is essential
that law enforcement officers and faculty and staff in higher education be aware of these reasons, so that prevention
and intervention strategies can be employed to effectively address this issue on college campuses.
As this was a cross-sectional study, design limitations do not allow for the determination of whether reported
alcohol and drug use (and differences in use between groups) existed prior to assault, or post-assault as a coping
method for victims. Also, as sexual assault was not defined in this survey, the frequency of disclosed victimization is
likely under-reported. This is evidenced in the larger number of respondents reporting being taken advantage of
sexually when under the influence of alcohol than those reporting being sexually assaulted. There were no questions
about being taken advantage of sexually when not under the influence of alcohol, or when under the influence of
drug use. Since students appear to define this differently than sexual assault, those individuals would not be
captured in this data.
Building Healthy Academic Communities Journal Vol. 1, No. 2, 2017
Researchers studying sexual violence should collaborate on the development of a universally accepted definition of
sexual assault in order to validly and reliably compare outcomes across studies. Although there has been some
movement in this direction (Abbey, 2002), and guidance offered by the Center for Disease Control (Basile, Smith,
Breiding, Black & Mahendra, 2014), there are still a variety of definitions and instruments used in current literature
on sexual assault. This diversity in definitions is further complicated by variations from professional fields such as
medical, legal, (Teurkheimer, 2015) and research (Bagwell, Messing, Baldwin-White, 2015), which may exacerbate
college student uncertainty of what constitutes sexual assault (Ryan, 2011). The US Department of Justice recently
hosted an expert panel on how best to measure sexual assault, which is an important next step in leading researchers
to a more integrated and universal method of measurement in the future (Kruttschnitt, Kalsbeek & House, 2013). A
multidisciplinary collaboration on a universal definition would also afford sexual violence prevention researchers
consistent language to use in helping college students understand the scope of what constitutes sexual violence,
potentially reducing the prevalence of unacknowledged victims associated with rape culture. This study showed that
certain behaviors, such as being taken advantage of sexually when under the influence of alcohol, are more
normalized on college campuses, and therefore future research should focus on deconstructing such perceptions.
There is a clear lack of understanding of what constitutes sexual assault among this college sample, much of which
can be attributed to the normalization of assault and rape myths. Having a personal relationship with the
perpetrator further impeded the victims’ clarity in identifying sexual assault. Regardless of whether a student was
aware of their sexual assault victimization status, those who were victimized were significantly more likely to use
higher levels of alcohol than nonvictims. There was no difference between victims and nonvictims in regards to
drug use severity. The involvement of alcohol or drugs at the time of assault was a primary reason given for not
reporting for both aware and unacknowledged victims. The presence of substances resulted in increased fear of
consequences and others’ perceptions, as well as the victims’ own self-blame. Shame and embarrassment were
identified as primary reasons for not reporting sexual assault. These feelings were connected to societal messages
and college campus norms, which were recognized by students as “victim blaming” and “slut shaming.” These
elements of rape culture were consistently identified as deterrents to reporting and impediments to victims’ own
processing of the assault. Overwhelmingly, participants cited the potential consequences as far greater than any
potential benefits to reporting sexual assault. Confusion about what constitutes sexual assault and uncertainty of
available resources were also recognized as contributing factors in underreporting.
Building Healthy Academic Communities Journal Vol. 1, No. 2, 2017
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Address author correspondence to:
Sandy Gibson, PhD, LCSW
Associate Professor
Clinical Coordinator
Department of Counselor Education
PO Box 7718 Ewing, NJ 08628-0718
... AISA stigma may be one important sociocultural risk factor that impedes resilience among AISA survivors, as professional (e.g., police, doctors) and social (e.g., friends, family) supports are particularly likely to accept victim-blaming rape myths reflecting beliefs that survivor intoxication caused the SA (Garza & Franklin, 2021). Moreover, fear of receiving victimblaming responses is a barrier to survivors disclosing AISA, which may limit opportunities for support (Schwarz et al., 2017). Suggesting such fear may be justified, AISA survivors may be more likely to receive victim-blaming and negative responses to disclosure compared to general SA survivors (Relyea & Ullman, 2015). ...
... Participants expressed reluctance to disclose AISA for fear of receiving victim-blaming responses, exacerbated by AISA stigma and self-blame. Along with silencing survivors, this reduced opportunities for support and contributed to participants' perceived isolation following AISA, as earlier reported by Schwarz et al. (2017). Further, participants explained that negative, victim-blaming responses from various sources reinforced internalized self-blame. ...
The social-ecological resilience framework posits that the development of negative psychological outcomes (NPO) following alcohol-involved sexual assault (AISA) is influenced by the interaction of sociocultural and individual risk and protective factors. AISA survivors may be particularly vulnerable to AISA stigma (e.g., victim-blaming rape myths), a sociocultural risk factor which, if internalized, may increase individual risk factors such as self-blame, low-self-compassion, and fear of self-compassion (FOSC), in turn contributing to subsequent NPO. Objective: This qualitative study explored AISA survivors' lived experiences regarding AISA stigma, self-blame, self-compassion, and FOSC as interrelated risk and protective factors in fostering or impeding resilience. Method: Eight participants (M = 25.8 years old) who survived AISA completed individual qualitative interviews that were later coded using thematic analysis. Results: Analyses produced three interrelated main themes, where AISA survivors described experiencing: (a) various NPO corresponding to PTSD, anxiety, and depression symptoms; (b) risk factors that undermined resilience, including internalized self-blame secondary to sociocultural AISA stigma, low self-compassion, FOSC, and preexisting maladaptive tendencies; and (c) protective factors contributing to resilience, including resisting self-blame and facilitating self-compassion by living according to one's values and challenging FOSC. Conclusions: Consistent with the social-ecological framework, AISA survivors' resilience toward NPO was undermined by the interrelated constructs of AISA stigma, internalized self-blame, and low self-compassion. In contrast, survivors' values, including being empathic and committed to feminism, fueled motivation to resist victim-blaming stigma and internalized self-blame and to practice self-compassion, ultimately countering the negative psychological effects of AISA. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of gender in medical treatment and research [3]. While much of the past research in addiction focused on men, there is now recognition that biological and psychosocial differences between men and women influence the prevalence, presentation, and treatment of substance use-related problems [3,4]. ...
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The substance use pandemic has caused enormous health, social and economic problems globally. Many of the people with substance use related problems do not however seek help and treatment, and this has created a wide treatment gap
... Aside from institutional barriers to reporting rape, college women who have been raped may choose not to come forward with allegations due to victim self-blame, substance involvement (e.g. alcohol), fear of retaliation from perpetrators, confidentiality concerns, and fear of not being believed (Sable et al., 2006;Schwarz et al., 2017). Thus, for American women, and perhaps especially American women in college, the threat of rape is both a very real and ubiquitous concern. ...
This research examined how masculine honour beliefs (MHB) relate to individuals’ intentions to volunteer for organisations that aim to prevent rape or to provide services to women who have been raped. We predicted both men and those higher in MHB would be more supportive of efforts intended to prevent rape and less supportive of efforts intended to provide support to women who have been raped. Participants (N = 195) were recruited at a large Midwestern university and indicated their willingness to volunteer for ten organisations, three of which addressed either the prevention of rape or the provision of support to women who have been raped. Participants also reported their adherence to individual difference variables, including MHB. Our results supported our hypotheses, suggesting that for both men and those higher in MHB, protecting women from rape, or deterring and preventing rape, appears more important than supporting women who have been raped. This research extends our understanding of how gender roles and MHB relate to perceptions of rape, its prevention, and its consequences. Practice Impact Statement This research suggests it may be possible to rally college students to address the issue of rape on their campuses in targeted ways. That is, male students and students with higher levels of MHB may be more willing to participate in efforts to prevent rape on college campuses (where rape is particularly prevalent) than they are to participate in advocacy (e.g. centres for advocacy, campus advocacy groups) or supportive services (e.g. crisis centres).
... Additionally, these assault activities were found to occur across a wide variety of demographic variables (i.e., different race/ethnicity, age group, gender identity, etc.). Therefore, this dissertation supports previous findings that campus assault is a relatively rare event, but that it is not limited to a particular set of circumstances, or typology of perpetrator and victim (Hollister et al., 2014;Reeves & Brock, 2018;Schwarz et al., 2017). ...
Acts of targeted violence are of great concern to college administrators. Additionally, targeted violence motivated by bias (e.g., racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.) is occurring at an increasing rate on campuses across the country. Previous research has identified potential pre-incident behaviors which may serve as indicators that an individual is escalating towards violent action. However, very limited research has been conducted which examines pre-incident behaviors which occur in bias motivated violence or aggression. With an undergraduate population (n = 1342), this study utilized a survey asking about exposure and response to both otherwise and biased motivated potential pre-incident behaviors on a college campus in order to make an initial attempt to compare events with differing motivations, and to provide initial estimates of the prevalence of these bias motivated pre-incident behaviors on a college campus. When compared to a no assault group, individuals who reported that the behaviors escalated to eventual physical or sexual assault witnessed more types of pre-incident behavior, higher numbers of pre-incident behavior, and increased repetitive unwanted contact, stalking behavior, threatening messages, and unwanted sexual advances. When compared to a group who reported non-bias motivation, those reporting behaviors motivated by some form of bias reported increased rates of disparaging, offensive or crude remarks, and threats. When reporters and non-reporters were compared, those who reported indicated witnessing a higher number of pre-incidents behavior. These findings suggest that while rarer than otherwise motivated events, bias motivated pre-incident behaviors occur on campus, can escalate to violent behavior, and are reported at a lower rate. Overall, it was found that increased pre-incident behavior is correlated to heightened risk of violence on campus in both bias and otherwise motivated events. The current study had multiple implications for managing bias motivated pre-incident behavior and improving reporting rates including improved community outreach, implementation of a threat assessment model, and further research to better understand bias motivated behavior on a college campus. Advisor: Mario J. Scalora
... In addition, victims of sexual assault while under the influence of alcohol often blame themselves for the assault, which may stem from pervasive acceptance of rape myths. 13 In college settings, the physical and psychological trauma of sexual assaults can impact retention of students. Many victims may transfer in an effort to avoid reminders of their trauma, or drop out of college entirely. ...
Objective This study examines rape myth acceptance among students attending a Historically Black College (HBCU). Participants One hundred and thirty two students participated in the study. Methods: A survey consisting of demographic questions and the Updated Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (IRMA) was distributed using an anonymous paper questionnaire to students on campus. Results Analysis of the scale indicate a moderate to high rejection of rape myths regardless of gender, with the highest acceptance in both genders of the “She Lied” subscale. Both male and female students were likely to agree that a girl would lie about being raped to get even with a guy or after a sexual encounter that she regretted. Gender differences were found in the “She asked for it” subscale, with men having a statistically significant higher acceptance than women. Conclusions These results have implications for the design and implementation of targeted sexual assault interventions on HBCU campuses.
Low rates of reporting sexual assault to law enforcement have been attributed to a culture of rape myth acceptance. Yet, rape myth acceptance rates and specific barriers to reporting have not been examined by sexual assault and reporting histories. This study compared the rape myth acceptance levels of reporting survivors, non-reporting survivors, and individuals without sexual assault histories. The sample consisted of 579 undergraduate students (68.0% White, 72.5% women) at a public university in the southeastern U.S. Differences in non-reporting survivors' experienced barriers to reporting and the perceived barriers of those without sexual assault histories were also examined. Results indicate differences in rape myth endorsement by sexual assault and reporting status, with the highest rape myth adherence rates endorsed by individuals without a sexual assault history and the lowest endorsed by reporting survivors. While non-reporting survivors and those without sexual assault histories shared two of the top three barriers to reporting (i.e., wanted to avoid thinking or talking about it, did not want family or friends to find out), non-reporting survivors were more likely to endorse personal reasons for not reporting, and those without sexual assault histories were more likely to endorse concerns about the law enforcement response to rape. Several barrier factors were identified among non-reporting survivors (i.e., fear of law enforcement involvement, personal reasons, ambiguity of the event, responsibility) and among individuals without sexual assault histories (i.e., risks outweigh benefits, victim blaming, ambiguity). Although both survivors and individuals without sexual assault histories acknowledge the personal, social, and legal risks of reporting a sexual assault to law enforcement, survivors' experienced barriers differed in nuanced ways from the presumed barriers of individuals without sexual assault histories. Findings may enhance sexual assault prevention trainings and awareness campaigns by targeting both rape myth beliefs and specific barriers to reporting of those with and without sexual assault histories.
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The National Association of Social Work Code of Ethics requires advocacy on behalf of groups experiencing oppression, and yet it can be difficult to recognize when the oppression is emanating from the profession itself. Social work has enacted numerous barriers to entry for people with criminal records, a group that disproportionately includes people who are poor, Black, disabled, and or LGBTQ+. While previous articles have examined the role of criminal records in the social work admission process, scholars have not comprehensively examined the role criminal records play throughout the career of a social worker. This article provides an overview of how records are used in higher education admissions, licensing, and employment, highlighting the limitations of criminal records as future indicators of harm. We argue that the broad use of criminal record checks not only harms marginalized individuals with records but is a disservice to clients who would benefit from the unique strengths derived from their social work training and lived experience. We conclude with future policy directions informed by abolitionist practices including non-reformist reforms that can reduce barriers to entry into the profession and build upon the strengths of people with lived experience in the criminal legal system.
This article includes content about sexual violence, rape culture and narratives of victim blaming that some people may find upsetting or unsettling. We advise you to continue reading at your discretion. Research suggests that university students are disproportionately affected by sexual violence and that most incidents remain unreported. Little qualitative research has been conducted to explore this further in the context of the UK. The current study used qualitative semi-structured interviews to explore the lived experiences of 11 university students currently studying at UK institutions, with data analysed used reflexive thematic analysis. Three key themes were generated, which collectively narrate the decision-making progress students navigate after experiencing sexual violence: (1) Making sense of sexual violence; (2) Barriers to disclosure; and (3) Navigating support. Three key take-home messages are outlined.
Full-text available
Research suggests that university students are disproportionately affected by sexual violence and that most incidents remain unreported. Little qualitative research has been conducted to explore this further in the context of the UK. The current study used qualitative semi-structured interviews to explore the lived experiences of 11 university students currently studying at UK institutions, with data analysed used reflexive thematic analysis. Three key themes were generated, which collectively narrate the decision-making progress students navigate after experiencing sexual violence: (1) Making sense of sexual violence; (2) Barriers to disclosure; and (3) Navigating support. Three key take-home messages are outlined.
Objective To describe provider experiences with implementation of the GIFTSS (Giving Information for Trauma Support and Safety) intervention. Participants: Health and counseling center staff from participating campuses attended trainings between August 2015 and August 2016. Interviews were conducted between May and August 2017. Methods: Providers (n = 230) completed surveys prior to and six months following a 3-hour training on the intervention. Structured phone interviews were conducted with a purposively selected subset of 14 providers. Results: Overall, staff found the intervention acceptable. Implementation barriers noted were time and competing patient priorities. Providers noted variation based on patient and visit characteristics. Clinic commitment, particularly in adopting strategies for universal dissemination of the GIFTSS card, was seen as helpful. Conclusion: Implementation of a brief trauma-informed intervention in campus health and counseling centers was feasible and acceptable to most providers. Opportunities to change organizational culture regarding ensuring adequate time and safety for patients are discussed.
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Despite the potential value of DNA evidence for criminal investigations and prosecution, we have a limited understanding of the way forensic evidence is used and its impact on case outcomes. This study uses qualitative data to describe the way investigators from the Houston Police Department use DNA evidence during investigations of sexual assaults. Results show DNA evidence has limited influence during investigations, and the value of DNA evidence is shaped by other evidentiary factors. The findings provide insight into the utility of DNA evidence, instances when DNA evidence is least and most useful, the importance of DNA evidence in comparison with other evidence, and the likely aggregate impact of DNA evidence across sexual assault cases.
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The comprehension of sexual consent is a crucial factor in healthy sexual relationships. This study examined the connection between the understanding of sexual consent and perpetration of sexual aggression. We surveyed 217 heterosexual male college students (M age = 20.9 years) using measures of sexual aggression, comprehension of sexual consent, rape myth acceptance, conformity to masculine norms, peer support of abuse, and attachment to abusive peers. We tested models examining factors related to comprehension of consent and the extent to which comprehension of consent was related to perpetration of sexual aggression. Rape myth acceptance, peer support of abuse, and conformity to masculine norms were found to predict comprehension of consent, which mediated the relationship between the social and cognitive variables and sexual aggression.
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This study examined the interactive effects of injunctive norm exposure and hostile and benevolent sexist attitudes on men's sexually aggressive responses during a behavioral analogue paradigm in which they interacted online with a bogus female partner. Heterosexual adult men (n = 201), recruited from an online sample, read fictional information regarding other men's approval of misogynistic, paternalistic, or egalitarian treatment of women, or non-gender-relevant control information. Through a media preference survey, men then learned that their female partner disliked sexual content in films, after which they had an opportunity to send her up to 120 sec' worth of either a sexually explicit or nonsexual film clip. Validating the online sexual aggression paradigm, men with a 1-year history of sexual assault exhibited more sexually aggressive responding during the film selection paradigm. Moreover, exposure to injunctive norm information produced a boomerang effect, such that men high in hostile sexist attitudes showed an increase in sexual aggression when confronted with paternalism and gender equality norms. Conversely, exposure to paternalism and gender equality norms suppressed the otherwise protective function of high benevolent sexism in reducing men's sexually aggressive tendencies. The implications of these results for social norms interventions are discussed. Aggr. Behav. 9999:1-14, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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Objective: The purpose of this study was to test a model of the relations of social reactions to sexual assault disclosure, self-blame and problem drinking. This is the first study to investigate whether type of self-blame has different relationships with social reactions and problem drinking in a large, diverse sample of sexually assaulted women. These relationships are important to investigate in order to identify specific targets for treatment and intervention with sexual assault victims and their social networks. Method: Community-residing female sexual assault survivors (N = 1863) in a large metropolitan area completed a mail survey about sexual assault, social reactions to disclosure, self-blame attributions, and problem drinking symptoms. Results: Structural equation modeling showed that characterological self-blame mediated the effect of negative social reactions on drinking, but behavioral self-blame did not function as a mediator. A second model showed unique relationships of specific positive and negative social reactions to drinking through characterological and behavioral self-blame. Conclusions: Characterological self-blame needs to be targeted in treatment and intervention with survivors, as it appears to be a key mechanism through which social reactions may influence recovery. Secondary prevention with informal social networks should educate people about social reactions to avoid negative reactions and promote those that are helpful, so people can better respond to survivors' sexual assault disclosures and improve recovery.
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The purpose of this study was to estimate the 6-month incidence rates of sexual assault, physical dating violence (DV), and unwanted pursuit (e.g., stalking) victimization among sexual-minority (i.e., individuals with any same-sex sexual experiences) college students with comparison data from non-sexual-minority (i.e., individuals with only heterosexual sexual experiences) college students. Participants (N = 6,030) were primarily Caucasian (92.7%) and non-sexual-minority (82.3%). Compared with non-sexual-minority students (N-SMS; n = 4,961), sexual-minority students (SMS; n = 1,069) reported significantly higher 6-month incidence rates of physical DV (SMS: 30.3%; N-SMS: 18.5%), sexual assault (SMS: 24.3%; N-SMS: 11.0%), and unwanted pursuit (SMS: 53.1%; N-SMS: 36.0%) victimization. We also explored the moderating role of gender and found that female SMS reported significantly higher rates of physical DV than female N-SMS, whereas male SMS and male N-SMS reported similar rates of physical DV. Gender did not moderate the relationship between sexual-minority status and victimization experiences for either unwanted pursuit or sexual victimization. These findings underscore the alarmingly high rates of interpersonal victimization among SMS and the critical need for research to better understand the explanatory factors that place SMS at increased risk for interpersonal victimization.
The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of education on rape myth acceptance, alcohol expectancies, and bystander attitudes. A sample of 126 community members and college students who had consumed alcohol within the past 90 days were administered surveys. College experience was unrelated to rape myth acceptance, alcohol expectancies, and bystander intentions. In line with previous research, two rape myth subscales were inversely related to bystander attitudes. In regard to alcohol expectancies and bystander attitudes, only one subscale was marginally significant. Ancillary analysis indicated that rape myth acceptance varied as a function of age, with older individuals less likely to support rape myths.
Sexual assault is emotionally devastating for victims and continues to plague college campuses. Bystander Intervention (BI) training, when incorporated into existing sexual assault-prevention programs, equips students to challenge sexually aggressive attitudes and behaviors, and educates them about myths and social norms that endorse sexual assault. This article highlights trends in BI programming and offers counselors and counselor educators recommendations for advocating for and implementing BI programs on their campuses.
An important next step for the field is to determine what setting-level factors beyond the individual are critical to fostering campus environments that support pro-social, helpful bystander intervention action to prevent sexual violence. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to provide a research agenda to investigate key areas of the campus environment and their potential influence on bystander intervention. To create the research agenda, a number of steps were followed including: (1) systematically reviewing the larger bystander literature to identify key environmental areas, (2) assessing what research is available specific to college campuses and sexual assault in each of these areas, and (3) outlining future research to address each of these areas on college campuses and determine their applicability to sexual violence situations. Five main groups of factors were found to influence bystander intervention beyond the individual, group and situational levels, including: social norms, sense of community, pro-social modeling, policies, and the physical environment. Certain areas of research on environmental influences on bystander intervention are more developed such as social norms, with little research on areas such as policies and the physical environment. However, further research is needed in each of the identified five areas to help identify how college campuses can support bystander intervention.