Factors associated with reporting of sexual assault among college and non-college women

Published date09 October 2017
Date09 October 2017
AuthorRyan Spohn,Abby Bjornsen,Emily M. Wright
Factors associated with reporting of
sexual assault among college and
non-college women
Ryan Spohn, Abby Bjornsen and Emily M. Wright
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine factors impacting college and non-college women
reporting sexual assault to police. The goal is to increase knowledge regarding differences in the rates of
reporting and reasons for reporting across these two groups.
Design/methodology/approach Participants were drawn from a national telephone survey of US women
and a sample of US college women. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to determine factors
influencing the reporting of sexual assault to police.
Findings Non-college women were more likely than college women to report to police. Women who
perceived their victimization as rape were much more likely to report to the police and women who had
contact with a helping agency were also much more likely to report their assault. Contacting a helping agency
is more relevant to non-college womens reporting to police, while considering the assault a rape is more
important for college women.
Practical implications The results suggest that significant work is needed to encourage women in college
to view sexual assaults as worthy of reporting. Boosting victim awareness and access to services is
paramount. Providing education and empowerment to student victims to inform their perceptions about the
definition of rape is vital, as women perceiving sexual assault as rape are more likely to report the incident.
Originality/value The research significantly adds to the literature indicating differencesin rates of reporting
and the factors that impact reporting uniquely for college vs non-college women.
Keywords Police, Victimization, College, Rape, Sexual assault, Violence against women
Paper type Research paper
Sexual assaultis a pervasive public healthand safety issue for women inthe USA. Although the risk
of sexual assault is present for women at any life stage, women in college (typically between the
ages of 18-24 years) haveparticularly high rates of sexual assault( Fisheret al.,1998).Theremay
be unique risk and lifestyle factors such as excessive drinking and risky sexual behavior for
women in college, which may increase their risk of sexual victimization (Fisher et al., 1998,2000).
According to the Rape,Abuse, and Incest National Network(RAINN) (2016), women between the
ages of 18-24 yearsare at an increased risk for sexual violence.When compared with statisticsfor
sexual violence for all women collectively, 18-24-year-oldwomen in college are three times more
likely to experience sexual violence, and 18-24-year-old women not in college are four times
more likely to experience sexual violence.
Despite their higher risk of sexual assault, however, college women are less likely to report the
incident to the police (RAINN, 2016; Sinozich and Langton, 2014; Wolitzky-Taylor, Resnick,
McCauley, Amstadter, Kilpatrick and Ruggiero, 2011). According to the National Crime
VictimizationSurvey, among females ages 18-24years, approximately 32 percentof non-students
report sexual assault victimization compared to 20 percent of college students (RAINN, 2016;
Sinozich and Langton,2014). This discrepancy exists even thoughthe percent of sexual assaults
involvingan acquaintance and involvinga weapon are the same between thetwo groups (Sinozich
and Langton, 2014). There are several reasons why victims of sexual assault fail to report the
incident to the police. According to recent statistics for women ages 18-24 years, 26 percent of
Received 31 May 2017
Revised 5 July 2017
Accepted 5 July 2017
Ryan Spohn is the Director
Nebraska Center for Justice
Research, Abby Bjornsen is an
Assistant Professor and
Emily M. Wright is a Professor,
all at the University of Nebraska
at Omaha, Omaha,
Nebraska, USA.
DOI 10.1108/JACPR-05-2017-0298 VOL. 9 NO. 4 2017, pp.279-289, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599

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