Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Women's Rape Awareness and Use of Commonly Advocated Risk Reduction Strategies

Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Women's Rape Awareness and Use of Commonly Advocated Risk Reduction Strategies

Article excerpt

Despite national efforts to create awareness about acquaintance rape and substance- facilitated sexual assault on college campuses, little empirical research investigates whether college women are incorporating these messages into their social behavior. This exploratory study adds to the existing literature by investigating college women's awareness of rape drugs, incorporation of widely advocated risk reduction strategies, communication with same sex peers about risk and protective factors, and perceptions of vulnerability to sexual violence. One hundred thirty-four women at a metropolitan university in the Midwest completed the web based survey. Findings suggest alcohol use affects the incorporation of risk reduction strategies, while class standing, peer disclosure, sexual assault history and receiving sexual assault education affect perceptions of vulnerability. In addition, perceived vulnerability is positively correlated with same-sex peer communication. Implications for possible prevention initiatives and future research directions are noted.

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There has been a recent trend toward coordinated national efforts to create awareness about acquaintance rape and substance-facilitated sexual assault on college campuses. For instance, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network initiated the annual "get carded campaign" back in 2003. In 2007, the campaign handed out more than 1 million cards to students across the continental United States (RAINN, 2007). Yet, little empirical research has investigated whether college women are incorporating the messages promoted in such campaigns into their social behavior. The purpose of this exploratory study is to add to the existing literature by investigating college women's awareness of rape drugs, their incorporation of widely advocated risk reduction strategies, their communication with same sex peers about risk and protective factors, and their perceptions of vulnerability to sexual violence.

Over the past decade, growing attention has been given to the use of substances or "date rape drugs" to facilitate sexual assault (Fitzgerald, & Riley, 2000; Hensley, 2003; Romeo, 2004; Slaughter, 2000). While the list of substances continues to grow, the most common substances associated with sexual assaults in the medical literature include alcohol, Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine (Negrusz & Gaensslen, 2003; Pope & Shouldice, 2001; Schwartz, Milteer, & LeBeau, 2000). In response to the growing discourse about rape drugs, the U.S. government passed the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996, which provided criminal penalties to persons utilizing controlled substances to commit a crime of violence (United States Department of Justice, 1997). Regardless, few empirical studies have explored the prevalence, incidence, or even women's perceived risk of being drugged and sexually assaulted by a date. In the few existing medical studies assessing incidence through the analysis of urine obtained from sexual assault victims, alcohol and marijuana were the most common substances detected (Negrusz & Gaensslen, 2003; Slaughter, 2000). While alcohol is often considered the number one date rape drug by rape prevention advocates, it is not regulated under the Drug-Induced Rape and Punishment Act because it is not a controlled substance.

Nonetheless, the role of alcohol in sexual assault incidents has gained the most empirical attention (Abbey, Ross, McDuffie, and McAulsan 1996; Corbin, Bernat, Calhoun, McNair, & Seals, 2001; Muehlenhard & Linton, 1987; Norris, Nurius, & Dimeff, 1996; Sampson, 2006, Sochting, Fairbrother, & Koch, 2004). While Ullman, Karabatsos, and Koss' (1999) longitudinal study found that 42% of female victims had been using alcohol at the time of their assault, the authors assert retrospective studies tend to find even larger estimates. Similarly, CombsLane and Smith (2002) found that alcohol use, intentions to engage in high risk drinking, being exposed to potential perpetrators (i. …

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