Lifestyle Factors Associated with the Sexual Assault of Men: A Routine Activity Theory Analysis

By Tewksbury, Richard; Mustaine, Elizabeth Ehrhardt | The Journal of Men's Studies, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Lifestyle Factors Associated with the Sexual Assault of Men: A Routine Activity Theory Analysis


Tewksbury, Richard, Mustaine, Elizabeth Ehrhardt, The Journal of Men's Studies


Sexual assault is one of the most feared forms of criminal victimization in our society (Ferraro, 1995, 1996; Warr, 1985). Additionally, despite decreasing crime rates, fear of other types of crime remains high. Sexual assault is also a crime that occurs a significant number of times each year. In fact, in 1998 more than 333,000 rape/sexual assault victimizations were reported on the National Crime Victimization Survey (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999). Furthermore, rape/sexual assault was one of the few violent crimes to occur with increasing frequency in the late 1990s.

Crime statistics reveal some important patterns regarding sexual assault. Most sexual assaults are perpetrated by men against women. The rate of sexual assault victimization for women is approximately 13 times the rate for men. Estimates suggest that as many as 18.2% of American women will be the victim of a sexual assault sometime during their lives (U.S. Department of Justice, 1998a). Sexual assault is also more common among younger persons, especially those between the ages of 16 and 24 (U.S. Department of Justice, 1998b). Statistically, the risk of rape is four times higher for women in this age group than it is for all other women (Warshaw, 1988). Perpetrators of sexual assault also tend to be young; approximately one-half of all reported and arrested sexual assault offenders are men under the age of 25 (U.S. Department of Justice, 1998c). Additionally, sexual assault victims and offenders typically know one another; most estimates suggest that at least 70% of rape/sexual assault victims know their offenders (Bohmer & Parrot, 1993; DeKeseredy & Kelly, 1993; Mynatt & Allgeier, 1990; U.S. Department of Justice, 1998b; Warshaw, 1988).

Based on these patterns it is not surprising that sexual assault is a significant problem among college and university students. In fact, high prevalence rates have been documented for college women (and on college campuses) for several decades. Research throughout the past four decades has consistently reported a rate of victimization between 15% and 25% for women in college. Rates also hold fairly steady across schools, regardless of setting, size, or location (Bohmer & Parrot, 1993; DeKeseredy & Kelly, 1993; Koss, 1988; Mynatt & Allgeier, 1990; Warshaw, 1988). Even so, sexual assault victimization is not limited to women. Estimates suggest that 3% of men will be victims of rape/sexual assault at least once in their lifetimes (U.S. Department of Justice, 1998b). Women report 90% and men 10% of all rapes/sexual assaults that are handled by law enforcement agencies (U.S. Department of Justice, 1998a). While a great deal of information is known about the sexual victimization of women, research on male victimization is less prevalent. Nonetheless, understanding the victimization of men is a relevant task. By increasing our understanding of sexual assault of men we can also gain a keener awareness of the patterns and sources of sexual assault as a feared crime of violence.

SEXUAL ASSAULTS OF MALES

Recently, researchers have begun to give serious attention to the sexual assault/coercive victimization of men, especially that perpetrated by women (Fiebert & Tucci, 1998; Isley, Busse, & Isely, 1998; Muehlenhard & Cook, 1988; Poppen & Segal, 1988; Stets & Pirog-Good, 1989; Struckman-Johnson, 1988; Waldner-Haugrud & Magruder, 1995). Previously, data on male sexual assault victimization were largely limited to reports from medical providers regarding their services to victims, with no analysis of the dynamics or contexts of such incidents (see Forman, 1982; Groth & Burgess, 1980; Kaufman, Divasto, Jackson, Voorhees, & Christy, 1980).

All forms of sexual assault, especially sexual assaults against men, present difficulties in identifying accurate prevalence and incidence rates. Male sexual assault is generally recognized to be among the most severely underreported offenses (Calderwood, 1987; Myers, 1989; Rosenfeld, 1982; Sarrel & Masters, 1982; Struckman-Johnson, 1991). …

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