Sexual Assault on Campuses: Trends and Prevention

By Payne, Brian K.; Respass, Gina | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Sexual Assault on Campuses: Trends and Prevention


Payne, Brian K., Respass, Gina, Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

This paper describes a study in which campus victim advocates addressed trends in sexual assault on campus and strategies to prevent sexual violence on campus. Results suggest that technological and structural changes have influenced the kinds of violence occurring on college campuses. Prevention strategies include building awareness about sexual violence.

Introduction

Early estimates on sexual assault against college students suggested that one in four women on college campuses are victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault (Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski, 1987). Perpetrators tended to be known acquaintances, with one in twelve males in the same study admitting to engaging in behaviors that constituted sexual assault. The federal response has entailed requirements that colleges develop various programs to educate about campus violence and maintain data about the extent of violence occurring on college campuses (Lee et al., 2003).

Despite these guidelines, research suggests that only about one third of college campuses comply with the reporting guidelines (Karjane, Fisher, and Cullen, 2005). What this suggests is that college are using disparate strategies to prevent and report crime data to federal authorities. Confusion exists on such basic issues such as who should collect the crime data--the university or the police (Aguzzi, 2003). This is troublesome because actions of the college and university can serve to protect students (Lyman, 2003).

Many educators may forget that violence is a real issue in students' lives. (Payne and Fogerty, 2006). It is imperative that those working with college students recognize this fact. If one-fourth of students have been victims of sexual abuse alone, and even more will have been victims of other forms of violence, then it is difficult to imagine any college course in which at least some of the students have been victims of violent offenses. Consequently, it is important to note that everyone, including college professors, is involved in the response to violence. This is not just an issue that effects victims; rather, it is an issue that inevitably effects everyone.

Methods

To gain insight into the trends in sexual assault cases occurring on college campuses, seventeen campus victim advocates participated in a focus group interview in August of 2004. Participants were specifically asked about the kinds of sexual violence cases they encountered as well as the appropriate strategies to prevent sexual violence. The seventeen representatives consisted of a police officer, a sergeant in the Department of Safety, a director of judicial affairs, an intern, and thirteen sexual assault advocates prevention specialists and coordinators. To ensure the confidentiality of the respondents, we will refer to them as victim advocates or representatives. Their responses were content analyzed using standard rules of manifest and latent content analysis. This entailed counting words, themes, and phrases and searching for patterns that were consistently suggested by the workers. The first author coded the responses and a member of the Virginia Department of Health and a representative from the Old Dominion University Social Science Research Center reviewed the analysis and findings to assess whether the patterns uncovered by the coder were in line with the underlying themes identified.

Results

According to the campus representatives, recent technological, social, and cultural changes, however, have influenced the nature of sexual assault on campuses throughout Virginia. Specific trends arising out of these changes include the following:

* Increased use of club drugs

* Internet crimes

* Harassment and stalking through technology

* Multiple victims

* "Identity Theft"

With regard to increases in the use of club drugs, campus representatives reported that drug use was common in sexual assault cases. …

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