On SAGE Insight: College Campus Sexual Assault and Female Students With Disabilities

From Journal of Interpersonal Violence

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College campus sexual assault is well-documented as a pervasive problem among U.S. colleges and universities, with female college students at the greatest risk. Although high rates of sexual assault affecting college women have been well-documented, research focused on female students with disabilities and college campus sexual assault is in its infancy.

Few studies have looked specifically at the intersectional identity of female students with disabilities in terms of risk for college campus sexual assault.  This study contributes to this emerging literature by using data from the Fall 2016 American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) to address research questions regarding the relationship between students with disabilities and college campus sexual assault. This analysis only looked at female college students’ experiences; all students who indicated they were assigned male at birth were dropped from the analysis, resulting in N = 22,828.

As year in School increased, odds of sexual assault decreased across all models for all types of sexual assault. These findings are not surprising, considering that previous research has consistently found that alcohol and drug use is associated with sexual assault victimization as well as perpetration. The article findings are also consistent with prior findings that odds for assault decrease as students’ progress in their studies, showing that younger and/or newer students are more likely to be victims of sexual assault. The analysis found that female students with disabilities had much higher odds of being sexually assaulted, regardless of the type of assault (completed, attempted, or relationship) compared to female students without disabilities. These findings also suggest that female students with disabilities are disproportionately experiencing sexual assault during their collegiate careers. B binge drinking, frequent alcohol consumption, and marijuana use did increase odds for sexual assault victimization in females with disabilities. Women with disabilities are also often more dependent on chronic abusers, whether they be their spouse/partner, a caregiver, or family member, making it difficult to report abuse. These results certainly point toward a fairly obvious policy implication: College campus sexual assault and intimate partner violence prevention and intervention programs should collaborate with disabilities services offices on college campuses.

Abstract

College campus sexual assault is well-documented as a pervasive problem among U.S. colleges and universities, with female college students at the greatest risk. Although more than 30 years of research has been dedicated to uncovering college campus sexual assault and identifying risk factors for victimization, few studies have looked at the relationship between female students with disabilities and college campus sexual assault victimization. The present study uses data from the female respondents (N = 22,828) of the American College Health Association’s Fall 2016 National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) to explore the relationship between female college campus sexual assault victimization and disability status. The analysis finds that disability status produces significantly greater increased odds for sexual assault than other commonly cited risk factors such as binge drinking, drug use, or Greek affiliation. Specifically, female students with disabilities are at increased odds for any type of sexual assault compared with female students without disabilities (odds ratio [OR] = 1.96; p < .001). This increases when looking at specific types of assault. Female students with disabilities were over 100% more likely to experience completed assaults (OR = 2.34; p < .001), attempted assaults, (OR = 2.03; p < .001), and relationship assaults (OR = 2.22; p < .001) compared to female students without disabilities. Analysis also indicates differences in other significant independent variables when sexual assault status is broken down into categories of completed sexual assaults, attempted sexual assaults, and relationship sexual assaults. In addition, the types of disability showing significance vary between the different types of assault. These findings have important policy implications for campus violence prevention and intervention and suggest multiple avenues for further research.

Read this article in full here

Article details
College Campus Sexual Assault and Female Students With Disabilities
Margaret I. Campe, MA
First Published April 4, 2019 Research Article
DOI: 10.1177/0886260519840405
Journal Of Interpersonal Violence

     
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