233530 A look at college students' personal knowledge of and attributions of blame in sexual assault: Implications for change

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 : 12:30 PM - 12:50 PM

Susan B. Sorenson, PhD , School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Manisha Joshi, PhD student , School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Kristie A. Thomas, MSW , School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Background. Late adolescent and young adult women have the highest rates of sexual assault. Most of these assaults are by persons known to the victim. The present investigation was designed, not as a victimization survey, but to assess broader personal knowledge of and attributions of blame in sexual assault. Such information can help guide the development of population-level interventions. Methods. A stratified random sample of 1200 undergraduates was recruited for an online survey about sexual assault. The response rate was over 50%. Respondents were asked 8 standard questions about sexual assault victimization and 8 about perpetration, as well as asked to rate the amount of blame that should be assigned to a woman victim in 3 of 6 randomly assigned scenarios. Results. The most common personal knowledge of victimization (53.6%) and perpetration (41.9%) was of a woman who gave in to sex play, but not intercourse, when she didn't want to because she was overwhelmed by a man's continual arguments and pressure. The victim was blamed least when an unknown man took the woman by surprise. Victim-blame was highest when there was mutual sex play at first but the woman changed her mind and when the woman took a flirting relationship to another level by sexting (sending a text message containing a photo of the scantily clad texter). Conclusions. Information such as this is relevant to public support for policies about sexual assault, services for survivors and their networks, and, in the ultimate illustration of community norms, jury decisions.

Learning Objectives:
At the conclusion of this presentation, attendees will be able to: 1. Describe college student knowledge (i.e., personal knowledge of a victim or assailant) of sexual assault. 2. Identify patterns of victim-blame. 3. Describe how this information can be used to develop population-level interventions.

Keywords: Sexual Assault, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Professor Sorenson conducted the first research on sexual assault ever to be published in a public health journal. Since that initial publication in the American Journal of Epidemiology more than 25 years ago, she has continued conduct research on violence against women. Included in the body of her work is an experimental vignette study in which over 3700 community-residing adults from six ethnic groups were interviewed in four languages. Two of the multiple resulting peer-reviewed publications are directly relevant to the new work to be presented at the 2010 APHA convention: one is about personal knowledge of violence against women and the other is about attributions of fault and responsibility in domestic violence. In addition, since 1986, Prof. Sorenson has taught a course on family and sexual violence, the first violence prevention course in a school of public health in the nation. These qualifications suggest that Dr. Sorenson has sufficient knowledge and skill to present her latest research, a study of the epidemiology of personal knowledge of sexual assault among college students and their attributions of blame.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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