Sexual Victimization and Sexual Harassment among College Students: a Comparative Analysis

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Journal of Family Violence

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Sexual victimization, defined as non-contact unwanted sexual experiences (e.g., sexual harassment), unwanted sexual contact, sexual coercion, forcible rape, or alcohol- or drug-facilitated assault or rape, is nontrivial among the college study population. This study explores how the situational contexts, which include self-reported consequences and responses to victimization, compare between incidents of non-contact sexual harassment (SH) and contact sexual victimization (CSV) (e.g., unwanted sexual contact, sexual coercion, and rape). Conjunctive analyses compare the commonality and variation among situational contexts of incidents of SH and incidents of CSV from a sample of survivors from 24 different colleges. Both forms of sexual violence negatively impact college students. Respondents who experienced SH only (i.e., did not also experience CSV) in the past year and those who experienced contact CSV only (i.e., did not also experience non-contact SH) in the past year both reported negative outcomes associated with the victimization, but it was more common for survivors of SH only to report being intimidated and feeling uncomfortable in their environment at the college. The implications of this study are twofold. First, scholars should ensure that research on the negative effects of CSV does not come at the expense of other forms of sexual victimization. Second, practitioners, campus services, and prevention programs should acknowledge both contact and non-contact sexual victimization in programming and services in order to buffer the negative effects resulting from victimization.


Sexual victimization; Sexual harassment; College students


Criminology and Criminal Justice | Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence



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