Sexual Violence Among College Students: An Examination of Individual and Institutional Level Factors Associated With Perpetration

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Abstract

Background:

Sexual violence incidents involving college students have received media attention and increased awareness of this public health problem in the United States; prevention efforts are needed that target potential perpetrators. We examined characteristics of self-reported perpetrators of sexual violence on campuses.

Methods:

This study used a secondary data analysis of the 2015 College Student Health Survey, an annual survey, which was completed by students attending 17 colleges/universities in Minnesota. The analytic sample included 6,548 18-to 24-year-old college students who answered at least one of two questions assessing perpetration in the past 12 months (i.e., sex/sexual touch without consent). Chi-square tests were used to detect associations between perpetration and individual (e.g., age, race, substance use, victimization) and institutional (e.g., school type, location) level characteristics. Multiple logistic regression analyses identified predictive models for being a perpetrator of sexual violence.

Results:

Fifty-two students reported perpetration of sexual violence in the past year, including 29 rapes. Overall, self-reported perpetrators of sexual violence are more likely to be men, to have been a victim in his or her lifetime, to have smoked marijuana in the past 12 months (but not the past month), and to be younger (18 or 19 years old). Institutional level characteristics, including school type and location, did not yield significant associations with perpetration.

Discussion:

Sexual violence prevention and response efforts toward college students need to be inclusive, especially targeting individual level factors, and considerate of the victimization–perpetration comorbidity experienced by many students.

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