Correlates of incoming male college students’ proclivity to perpetrate sexual assault.

Author(s): 
Palmer, J.E., McMahon, S., & Fissel, E. (2021).
Source: 
Violence Against Women, 27(3-4), 507 – 528.
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Summary: 

This study examined the tendency of incoming male college students to perpetrate sexual assault. Findings showed that the number of male students who indicated being “extremely likely” to perpetrate sexual assault was rather low (force: 0.6%, incapacitation: 0.7%), but only 80% and 74% of men in this study indicated they were “not at all likely” to perpetrate using force or incapacitation, respectively, if they were assured that no one would know and that they could in no way be punished.

Expanded Abstract: 

Sexual assault is a crucial public health concern impacting university students (Fisher et al., 2000; Kilpatrick et al., 2007; Koss et al., 1987; Krebs et al., 2007). In terms of the size of the problem, the Association of American Universities (AAU) surveyed female undergraduate students from 27 colleges and universities and found that 23.1% had experienced sexual assault or sexual misconduct (Cantor et al., 2015). A review of the data from campus sexual assault studies (Muehlenhard et al., 2017) suggests that, on average, 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault during their college career. Studies focusing on the perpetration of sexual coercion or assault have found that between 15% - 30% of male students admit to committing sexual assault (Sutherland et al., 2014, White & Smith, 2004; Zinzow & Thompson, 2015). Research has also found that sexual assault on campus is a serial perpetration problem. For example, Lisak and Miller (2002) concluded that the large majority of campus rape is committed by repeat perpetrators, and one reason that serial rape perpetration can occur is that offenders on college campuses often remain undetected (Lisak & Miller, 2002).

Findings from this study showed that the number of male students who indicated being “extremely likely” to perpetrate sexual assault was rather low (force: 0.6%, incapacitation: 0.7%), but only 80% and 74% of men in this study indicated they were “not at all likely” to perpetrate using force or incapacitation, respectively, if they were assured that no one would know and that they could in no way be punished. The results of this study suggest that rape myth acceptance, perceptions of peer social norms related to bystander intervention, and intent to join a fraternity are associated with incoming male college students’ tendency to perpetrate.

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