Academic journal article Violence and Victims

College Women's Perceived Risk to Experience Sexual Victimization: A Prospective Analysis

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

College Women's Perceived Risk to Experience Sexual Victimization: A Prospective Analysis

Article excerpt

This study implemented a prospective design to explore college women's perceived risk to experience sexual victimization over a 2-month interim (N 5 143). Compared to women without such histories, women with a history of unwanted sexual contact via arguments/ pressure, or a history of unwanted sexual intercourse via administration of alcohol/drugs reported higher perceived risk to subsequently experience these forms of victimization. Compared to women who were not victimized, women who subsequently experienced unwanted sexual intercourse via administration of alcohol/drugs or arguments/pressure reported higher levels of risk to experience these forms of victimization. Controlling for victimization history, higher levels of risk to experience sexual intercourse over the interim via arguments predicted this form of victimization over the follow-up. Implications are discussed.

Keywords: sexual assault; risk perception; sexual victimization; college students

Sexual victimization can occur in many different forms including unwanted sexual contact (the use of continual arguments, authority, or physical force to coerce a woman into sex play, including fondling, kissing or petting), attempted rape (physical force, alcohol, or drugs to attempt sexual intercourse with a woman), sexual coercion (authority, continual arguments and pressure to force a woman into engaging in sexual intercourse), and rape (alcohol, drugs, or physical force to coerce a woman into sexual intercourse, including anal and oral sex; see Basile & Saltzman, 2002). Research indicates that most sexual assault is perpetrated by men against women, where the perpetrator is identified as an acquaintance, friend, or a former or current dating partner (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000; VanZile-Tamsen, Testa, & Livingston, 2005).

Whereas estimates of the prevalence of sexual assault differ because of variation in the definition and assessment of victimization experiences, numerous studies document high rates of sexual assault among college women (Basile, Chen, Black, & Saltzman, 2007; Mohler-Kuo, Dowdall, Koss, & Wechsler, 2004; Testa, Livingston, VanZile-Tamsen, & Frone, 2003). Nearly 40% of college women who participated in a national survey between 1984 and 1985 reported a history of unwanted sexual contact, attempted rape, or rape (Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987). Approximately 30% of college women who participated in a more recent survey between 2005 and 2006 reported experiences of forced or incapacitated sexual assault either prior to or during college (Kregs, Lindquist, Warner, Fisher, & Martin, 2009). Over the course of one 9-month academic year, nearly 35 of every 1,000 college women experience an attempted or completed rape (Karjane, Fisher, & Cullen, 2005).

Within studies examining women's perceived risk for sexual assault, two bodies of literature have emerged: studies examining women's recognition and response to situational risk factors in dating scenarios, and studies examining women's personal estimates of perceived vulnerability (see Gidycz, McNamara, & Edwards, 2006 for a review). Within the body of research examining women's recognition and response to situational risk factors for sexual assault, numerous studies suggest that impairments in recognition of risky dating scenarios may place a woman at greater risk for sexual victimization (Marx, Calhoun, Wilson, & Meyerson, 2001; Soler-Baillo, Marx, & Sloan, 2005; Wilson, Calhoun, & Bernat, 1999; Yeater & O'Donohue, 2002). Women with a history of sexual victimization report deficits in their ability to identify threatening dating situations compared to women without a history of assault (Messman-Moore & Brown, 2006) and also report longer delays in acknowledging risky dating scenarios compared to women with a single-assault history (Yeater & O'Donohue, 2002). Such delays in recognizing risky dating scenarios may increase the likelihood that perpetrators of sexual aggression misperceive women's sociability as a sign of sexual interest (Jacques-Tiura, Abbey, Parkhill, & Zawacki, 2007). …

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