Evaluation of the Sexual Experiences Survey—Revised as a Screening Measure for Sexual Assault Victimization Among College Students

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Abstract

Objective: The Sexual Experiences Survey—Revised (SES-R) is considered the “gold standard” for screening for sexual victimization experiences in adults. However, research studies examining the psychometrics of this instrument are scant. This article examines response consistency among individuals endorsing a sexual victimization history on the SES-R, as well as examines the extent to which the SES-R yields true and false positives. Method: A total of 1,263 college students completed the SES-R victimization items online for course credit. A total of 189 individuals who endorsed having a sexual victimization history on the SES-R completed the measure online again after a period of 1–4 weeks, as well as provided a written description of their sexual victimization experience. Results: Consistency in responses to the SES-R was overall moderate (κs = .33–.69). Examination of the written descriptions provided suggested that 79.7% of endorsements on the SES-R reflected true positives and 20.2% represented false positives. However, agreement regarding the type of sexual victimization experienced between responses on the SES-R and written descriptions was moderate, with the strongest level of agreement among individuals who endorsed a completed rape history on the SES-R (60%). Conclusions: The SES-R is a useful tool for screening for sexual victimization history, but caution should be exercised when inferring both overall victimization rates as well as specific types of victimization based on SES-R responses alone. Several modifications to the SES-R item content and administration format could potentially reduce problems with response inconsistency and false positives.

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