Attitudes, Identification, Decisions to Report, and Bystander Factors Among College Freshman Regarding Sexual Assault
Committee memberDuCette, Joseph P.
Fiorello, Catherine A.
Gross, Steven Jay
Sexual Assault Attitudes
Sexual Assault Identification
Sexual Assault Reporting
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/1419
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AbstractSexual assault has increasingly become a large problem on college and university campuses in the United States. Not only is the frequency of the occurrences problematic, but the lack of reporting, the mishandling of cases, and efforts to stop campus sexual assaults have also garnered a large amount of attention. While many research studies have focused on the effectiveness of educational programs aimed to increase awareness, reporting, and prevention of sexual assault among college students, not many studies have examined if students’ abilities to identify sexual assaults in contextual situations and their attitudes regarding sexual assault are affected by these programs. The purpose of this study was to investigate if students entered college with attitudes that are supportive of sexual assault, the ability of first-semester college freshman to identify sexual assault within contexts, students’ decision to report a perceived sexual assault, the likelihood that students would intervene as a bystander, and demographics related to student attitudes toward, identification of, and decisions to report sexual assaults. Participants in this study were 551 freshmen in their first-semester at Temple University, who were 18 or 19 years of age. Participants completed a survey which consisted of demographic questions, 11 original vignettes depicting potential sexual assault scenarios, the updated Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance (IRMA) scale, and the Type T personality questionnaire. Results revealed that about one-third of students surveyed did not completely disagree with sexual assault-supportive statements on the updated IRMA scale, with the He Didn’t Mean To and She Lied attitudes being the most popularly endorsed. Students who endorsed sexual assault-supportive attitudes were significantly more likely to misidentify an instance of sexual assault and to not report a perceived sexual assault in some scenarios. In regards to demographics, males were more likely than females to endorse sexual assault-supportive attitudes, to misidentify sexual assaults, to not report a perceived sexual assault in some scenarios, and they were less likely than females to intervene as a bystander in a sexual assault scenario. Sexuality and ethnic identification had some effect on attitudes endorsed and ethnic identity had an effect on the decision to report a sexual assault in two specific scenarios. In addition, the type of high school students attended and the types of sexual education topics they were educated on prior to college were significantly linked to attitudes endorsed, and the type of high school students attended was significantly linked to identifying instances of sexual assault. The growing issue of campus sexual assault is represented by the amount of students in this study who cannot correctly identify sexual assault situations, by the attitudes that contribute to the occurrences of sexual assault, and by the reasons why students feel sexual assault scenarios should not be reported. The significant relationship between endorsing attitudes and incorrectly identifying sexual assaults, as well as the decision to not report perceived sexual assaults, supports the potentially harmful effects having an attitude that essentially supports sexual assault can have in society. Prevention efforts need to address the root of a problem, which in this case is a culture where sexual assault, largely against women, is excused, dismissed, and subsequently deemed acceptable. Thus, adolescents should be educated and provided with appropriate messaging on topics related to sexual assault well before they enter college.
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