Predictors of Sexual Assault Risk Perception and Resistance Self-efficacy among Sexual Assault Survivors
Sexual assault, which includes all types of unwanted coerced or forced sexual behavior, is a prevalent issue among college women. Rape, considered the most serious form of sexual assault (McMahon, 2011), is defined as oral, vaginal, or anal penetration performed against one’s will by force, the threat of force, or when a person is unable to give consent (Koss & Gidycz, 1985). It is estimated that up to one in four undergraduate women will experience an attempted or completed rape during her college career (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). The potential adverse consequences for college women who are sexually assaulted include symptoms of PTSD and depression, heavy drinking, impaired academic performance, and increased risk of sexual re-victimization. Women who are sexually assaulted once during college report being sexually re-assaulted three more times on average (Katz et al., 2010). College sexual assault survivors run a high risk of re-victimization both because they engage in more risky behaviors and because they are less likely to effectively resist a sexual assault attempt. Yet, the interactions of the underlying risk factors are not well-understood and have not been examined in relation to one another. This thesis analyzed sexual assault risk perception and sexual assault resistance self-efficacy with regard to the interactions of victim status, symptoms of PTSD and depression, frequent drinking, and risky sex. I also sought to further understand sexual re-victimization within the college population, so that tertiary treatment and risk reduction tactics can better target the specific needs of survivors. Participants included 1,955 ethnically diverse undergraduate women, 366 of whom endorsed a rape history. They completed an online survey of their experiences of adolescent and adult rape, mental health symptoms, drinking frequency, risky sexual behaviors, sexual assault risk perception, and sexual assault resistance self-efficacy, as part of a larger study. Through a series of independent samples t-tests and linear regressions, relationships among victim status, mental health symptoms, drinking frequency, and risky sex behaviors were examined. Significant differences arose between rape survivors and non-victims. While rape survivors perceived situations as riskier for sexual assault than non-victims, they also reported less sexual assault resistance self-efficacy. Frequent drinkers perceived more sexual assault risk than non-frequent drinkers, and those survivors who reported more PTSD symptoms or engaged in more risky sex perceived greater risk for sexual assault. Sexual assault resistance self-efficacy was lowest among those who frequently drank and those with depressive symptoms. In fact, depressive symptoms had a greater effect on reducing moderately assertive resistance self-efficacy among survivors than among non-victims. Among rape survivors, depressive symptoms were more strongly associated with reduced assertive resistance self-efficacy for those who frequently drank than those who did not. Re-victimization, therefore, may be best prevented on the individual level by treating rape survivors for PTSD, depressive symptoms, and problematic drinking. On a broader level, implementing bystander interventions to change cultural norms may help reduce overall risk of sexual assault.
Decker, Melissa. (January 0001). Predictors of Sexual Assault Risk Perception and Resistance Self-efficacy among Sexual Assault Survivors (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/5106.)
Decker, Melissa. Predictors of Sexual Assault Risk Perception and Resistance Self-efficacy among Sexual Assault Survivors. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, January 0001. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/5106. September 25, 2023.
Decker, Melissa, “Predictors of Sexual Assault Risk Perception and Resistance Self-efficacy among Sexual Assault Survivors” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, January 0001).
Decker, Melissa. Predictors of Sexual Assault Risk Perception and Resistance Self-efficacy among Sexual Assault Survivors [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; January 0001.
East Carolina University