Campus sexual assault: examination of policy and research

Date09 April 2018
Published date09 April 2018
AuthorUnnati Patel,Ronald Roesch
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression, conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology, policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
Campus sexual assault: examination
of policy and research
Unnati Patel and Ronald Roesch
Purpose Campus sexual assault has received a great deal of media attention in recent years, with much
focus being placed on the factors unique to universities that enable these crimes to occur. The purpose of this
paper is to discuss the circumstances under which these crimes take place and examine the policies of
institutions across the USA and Canada to determine whether legislation from various governmental levels
impacts the prevalence and incidence rates of sexual assault.
Design/methodology/approach A review of the literature on sexual assault is conducted to gain an
understanding of the contributory factors in campus sexual assault, and fields outside of psychology are
included in the search to capture phenomena outside the perpetrator-victim dyad.
Findings The findings suggest that unique variables exist in campus culture including prevention and
intervention strategies put in place by governments and individual universities. Some of these policies are
aimed at providing victim services, while others engage faculty, staff, and students in taking action from a
bystander standpoint.
Originality/value This paper also investigates the impacts that mandatory policies would have across
North America, and suggests future policy initiatives to reduce the deleterious effects of sexual assault for
students and universities alike.
Keywords Sexual violence, Sexual assault, Title IX, Campus sexual assault, Campus culture,
University policy
Paper type General review
Sexual assault is prevalent in university settings. While male students have reported victimization
(Davies, 2002), female students remain at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted, with an
estimated 20-25 percent experiencing attempted or completed sexual assault during their
university years (Kimble et al., 2008; Krebs et al., 2009; Senn et al., 2014). However, despite the
widespread prevalence of sexual violence on university campuses, few individuals actually report
their victimization through official channels (Karjane et al., 2005), and the figures found in surveys
do not correspond to those in official reports. One seminal study found that only 5 percent of
assaults are reported to law enforcement (Koss, 1988), while another found that less than
5 percent of sexual assault, harassment, or stalking incidents were reported to university officials
(Roberts et al., 2016). By contrast, students who have experienced sexual assault do disclose to
family members or friends (Roberts et al., 2016) and to surveys.
Research has found that sexual assault negatively impacts many areas of a victims life. Medical
problems, including chronic illness, sleep disturbance, sexually transmitted infections, and
sexual dysfunction, can co-occur with the psychological trauma of sexual violence. The trauma
of assault may result in conduct problems such as drug or alcohol use and physical aggression
(Vladutiu et al., 2011). As well, individuals may face re-victimization from their social networks due
to a lack of support and understanding from the community (Ullman, 1996). These wide-reaching
negative effects make it imperative that sexual assault be reduced. However, the gap between its
actual incidence and official reporting suggests that university and legal responses to the issue
require further change.
Received 1 May 2017
Revised 21 July 2017
Accepted 22 August 2017
Unnati Patel is a Student and
Ronald Roesch is a Professor,
both at the Department of
Psychology, Simon Fraser
University, Burnaby, Canada.
DOI 10.1108/JACPR-05-2017-0283 VOL. 10 NO. 2 2018, pp.103-111, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599

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