Reporting sexual victimization to the police and others: Results from a national-level study of college women

Beginning with M. P. Koss, C. A. Gidycz, and N. Wisniewski's pathbreaking study, the sexual victimization of female college students has emerged as salient research and policy concern. Building on this earlier work, we used a national, random sample of 4,446 female college students to focus on an issue of continuing importance: the level and determinants of victims' willingness to report their sexual victimization. The analysis revealed that although few incidents--including rapes--are reported to the police and/or to campus authorities, a high proportion are disclosed to someone else (mainly to friends). Incidents were more likely to be reported to the police when they had characteristics that made them more "believable" (e.g., presence of a weapon or assailant who was a stranger). The use of alcohol and/or drugs by offenders and/or victims had a unique effect, causing students to be more likely to disclose their victimization to friends but not to campus authorities. The implications of the findings for extant debates and for future research are also explored. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2003 APA, all rights reserved)
Author: 
Fisher,Bonnie S.
Daigle,Leah E.
Cullen,Francis T.
Turner,Michael G.
Notes: 
Fisher, Bonnie S., U Cincinnati, Div of Criminal Justice, P.O. Box 210389, Cincinnati, OH, US, 45221-0389, bonnie.fisher@uc.edu LA- English AN- 2003-04249-003
Reprint Status: 
IN FILE
Start Page: 
6
End Page: 
38
Journal/Periodical Name: 
Criminal Justice and Behavior
Volume: 
30
Issue: 
1
Abstract: 
Previous research demonstrates that sexual assault and rape are the most underreported violent crimes. Additionally, research has also documented that college women are especially at risk for sexual victimization. This study reviews some of the factors that contribute to the level of nonreporting associated with such crimes as well as factors that seem to increase the chances that a victim will report. Factors reviewed include the impact of self-blame, the seriousness of the incidents, type of victim-offender relationships, certain victim characteristics (e.g., age, income level, education level, race, etc.), and the contextual characteristics of the crimes (e.g., the role of substance abuse). Drawing upon a sample of female undergraduates from the National College Women Sexual Victimization study, the authors examined the effects of incident, offender, victim and contextual characteristics on the likelihood of disclosure. Results indicate that the majority of incidents are not reported to law enforcement andhen a weapon was used, and/or the incident occurred on campus. Victims were less likely to report an incident of sexual assault to police and/or authorities when alcohol and/or drugs were involved and more likely to tell someone else. Additional results are reviewed, along with implications for future research. Conservative and feminist views on the reasons behind underreporting are also discussed.
Topic Areas: 
College, Disclosure, Risk
Reference Type: 
JOUR
Reference ID: 
1658
Publication Date: 
2003