Gender Differences in Sexual Assault Victimization among College Students

By Hines, Denise A.; Armstrong, Jessica L. et al. | Violence and Victims, December 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Gender Differences in Sexual Assault Victimization among College Students


Hines, Denise A., Armstrong, Jessica L., Reed, Kathleen Palm, Cameron, Amy Y., Violence and Victims


College students are at particular risk for sexual assault victimization, yet research tends to focus on women as victims and men as perpetrators. The purpose of this study was to investigate gender differences in the prevalence, context, and predictors of sexual assault victimization among college students. Results showed that women were significantly more likely to have been sexually assaulted in a 2-month time period, but the context of victimization varied little by gender. Victimization was predicted by sexual orientation, time spent socializing and partying, and severe dating violence victimization for men and by year in school, time spent on the Internet, drinking and using drugs, and being a stalking and dating violence victim for women. Results are discussed in the context of routine activities theory and implications for prevention and future research.

Keywords: rape; routine activities theory; male victims; vulnerability hypothesis; unwanted sex

Sexual violence among college students is a significant public health concern, with estimates that 20%-25% of college women will be the victims of rape or attempted rape during their college careers (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). Although most research on sexual victimization among college students has focused on women, researchers are increasingly interested in sexual victimization among college men (e.g., Abbey, 2002; Aizenman & Kelley, 1988; Baier, Rosenzweig, & Whipple, 1991; Banyard, Ward, et al., 2007; Bridgeland, Duane, & Stewart, 1995; Lottes & Weinberg, 1996; Reed, Amaro, Matsumoto, & Kaysen, 2009; Rouse, 1988; Ryan, 1998; Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2001). However, few have examined how female experiences of victimization differ from those of male victims. The goal of this study is to investigate gender differences in sexual assault victimization, the context in which it occurs, and predictors of victimization.

PREVALENCE AND CONTEXT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AMONG FEMALE AND MALE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Several studies have shown that college women are at high risk for sexual assault victimization. For example, 5% of a nationally representative sample of college women were victims of completed or attempted rape in a 7-month period at a rate of 27.7 per 1,000 women (Fisher et al., 2000). Other studies show that as many as half of college women experience some form of unwanted sexual activity (Abbey, Ross, McDuffie, & McAuslan, 1996; Himelein, 1995; Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987; Synovitz & Byrne, 1998), with about 25%-33% of college women reporting forced sexual touching (e.g., Fiebert & Osburn, 2001).

Much less is known about sexual assault victimization among college men. Studies show that men are sexually victimized, often by female perpetrators (Choudhary, Coben, & Bossarte, 2010; Weiss, 2010). The rates of verbal sexual coercion in a 1-year period (i.e., insisting on or threatening someone into engaging in sexual activity) against college men by women are between 10% and 22% (e.g., Aizenman & Kelley, 1988; Anderson, 1998; Baier et al., 1991; Hines, 2007; Struckman-Johnson, 1988; Struckman-Johnson & Struckman- Johnson, 1994), whereas rates of physically forced sexual intercourse by college women against men are between 1% and 3% (Anderson, 1998; Baier et al., 1991; Hines, 2007; Rouse, 1988; Struckman-Johnson, 1988; Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 1994).

Although rates of victimization among college men have been documented, less is known about the context of these sexual assaults. Research on college women (Fisher et al., 2000) shows that most college women know their offenders, who are most often a classmate, a friend, an ex-boyfriend/boyfriend, or an acquaintance. Almost 90% of victimizations occurred during the evening, late night, or very early morning hours. Most victimization took place offcampus, usually in a residence, and more than 90% of the sexual assaults that took place on campus occurred in a residence hall. …

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