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Violence and Victims, Volume 27, Number 6, 2012

922 © 2012 Springer Publishing Company
http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/0886-6708.27.6.922

Gender Differences in
Sexual Assault Victimization Among

College Students

Denise A. Hines, PhD
Jessica L. Armstrong, MA
Kathleen Palm Reed, PhD

Amy Y. Cameron, MA
Clark University, Department of Psychology

College students are at particular risk for sexual assault victimization, yet research tends
to focus on women as victims and men as perpetrators. The purpose of this study was to
investigate gender differences in the prevalence, context, and predictors of sexual assault
victimization among college students. Results showed that women were significantly
more likely to have been sexually assaulted in a 2-month time period, but the context of
victimization varied little by gender. Victimization was predicted by sexual orientation,
time spent socializing and partying, and severe dating violence victimization for men and
by year in school, time spent on the Internet, drinking and using drugs, and being a stalk-
ing and dating violence victim for women. Results are discussed in the context of routine
activities theory and implications for prevention and future research.

Keywords: rape; routine activities theory; male victims; vulnerability hypothesis;
unwanted sex

S
exual violence among college students is a significant public health concern, with
estimates that 20%–25% of college women will be the victims of rape or attempted
rape during their college careers (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). Although most

research on sexual victimization among college students has focused on women, researchers
are increasingly interested in sexual victimization among college men (e.g., Abbey, 2002;
Aizenman & Kelley, 1988; Baier, Rosenzweig, & Whipple, 1991; Banyard, Ward, et al.,
2007; Bridgeland, Duane, & Stewart, 1995; Lottes & Weinberg, 1996; Reed, Amaro,
Matsumoto, & Kaysen, 2009; Rouse, 1988; Ryan, 1998; Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2001).
However, few have examined how female experiences of victimization differ from those
of male victims. The goal of this study is to investigate gender differences in sexual assault
victimization, the context in which it occurs, and predictors of victimization.

Sexual Assault Victimization 923

PREVALENCE AND CONTEXT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AMONG
FEMALE AND MALE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Several studies have shown that college women are at high risk for sexual assault victimiza-
tion. For example, 5% of a nationally representative sample of college women were victims
of completed or attempted rape in a 7-month period at a rate of 27.7 per 1,000 women (Fisher
et al., 2000). Other studies show that as many as half of college women experience some
form of unwanted sexual activity (Abbey, Ross, McDuffie, & McAuslan, 1996; Himelein,
1995; Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987; Synovitz & Byrne, 1998), with about 25%–33%
of college women reporting forced sexual touching (e.g., Fiebert & Osburn, 2001).

Much less is known about sexual assault victimization among college men. Studies
show that men are sexually victimized, often by female perpetrators (Choudhary, Coben,
& Bossarte, 2010; Weiss, 2010). The rates of verbal sexual coercion in a 1-year period
(i.e., insisting on or threatening someone into engaging in sexual activity) against college
men by women are between 10% and 22% (e.g., Aizenman & Kelley, 1988; Anderson, 1998;
Baier et al., 1991; Hines, 2007; Struckman-Johnson, 1988; Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-
Johnson, 1994), whereas rates of physically forced sexual intercourse by college women
against men are between 1% and 3% (Anderson, 1998; Baier et al., 1991; Hines, 2007; Rouse,
1988; Struckman-Johnson, 1988; Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 1994).

Although rates of victimization among college men have been documented, less is known
about the context of these sexual assaults. Research on college women (Fisher et al., 2000)
shows that most college women know their offenders, who are most often a classmate,
a friend, an ex-boyfriend/boyfriend, or an acquaintance. Almost 90% of victimizations
occurred during the evening, late night, or very early morning hours. Most victimization
took place off campus, usually in a residence, and more than 90% of the sexual assaults that
took place on campus occurred in a residence hall. About 20% of rape or attempted rape
victims reported an injury of some sort.

To our knowledge, only two studies have assessed the context of sexual victimization
among college men as compared to women. Reed et al. (2009) found that 70% of college
men said they were drinking and/or using drugs at the time that they experienced forced
sexual touching, whereas 39% of college women did; 86% of college men were drink-
ing when they experienced sexual assault/rape, whereas 70% of college women were.
Furthermore, 71% of men and 78% of women reported that their perpetrator was drinking
at the time of the sexual assault/rape. Banyard, Ward, et al. (2007) found that men were
significantly more likely than women to indicate that unwanted sexual contact occurred at
a party, but there were no gender differences in whether the unwanted contact occurred on
or off campus, the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator, alcohol/drug use by either
the perpetrator or victim, or perpetrator tactics.

GENDER DiFFERENCES iN PREDiCTORS OF
SEXUAL ASSAULT ViCTiMizATiON

It is also important to identify factors that are associated with an increased risk of victim-
ization. Studies that have focused on college women have shown that sexual abuse as a
child or prior sexual assault victimization (Fisher et al., 2000; Follette, Polusny, Bechtle, &
Naugle, 1996; Hines, 2007; Koss & Dinero, 1989), approval and enjoyment of premarital
sex, the number of men with whom they have had sexual intercourse (Koss & Dinero, 1989),

924 Hines et al.

frequently drinking to intoxication, being unmarried, and living on campus (Fisher et al.,
2000) predict sexual assault victimization. In a study on college men, Tewksbury and
Mustaine (2001) found that significant predictors of any kind of sexual assault victimiza-
tion included not being married, being non-White, having a high proportion of drug use
time at parties, frequently spending leisure time at a bar, having a greater number of sib-
lings, and not having a consistently employed father when he was growing up. Predictors
of serious sexual assault (i.e., threats or force to engage in intercourse) included being
non-White, frequently using drugs during the week, having a greater number of siblings,
being an only child, and being a college athlete.

ROUTiNE ACTiViTiES THEORY

One theory that offers insight into the pattern of emerging findings related to the predic-
tion and context of sexual victimization among college students is the routine activities
theory. According to this theory, opportunity is key to explaining victimization, which
occurs when three important factors are present: (a) the absence of capable guardians who
could protect against a crime, (b) a motivated offender, and (c) a suitable target (Cohen &
Felson, 1979; Felson, 1998). The first factor of routine activities theory is supported by
the fact that college often represents a new developmental phase characterized by having
fewer capable guardians than at any other point in their lives previously.

Support for the second factor regarding motivated offenders comes from research on unde-
tected rapists (Lisak & Miller, 2002). Most (80.8%) of these offenders strategically identified
“targets” who are incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol and are within their own social
networks. Similarly, college women who have friends who use alcohol to get women drunk
for the purposes of having sex are significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted in com-
parison to college women who do not have such friends (Schwartz & Pitts, 1995).

In a college setting, these motivated offenders without capable guardians are in close
proximity to, and come into repeated contact with the third factor, suitable targets, which
has been discussed elsewhere as the vulnerability hypothesis (Koss & Dinero, 1989).
According to this hypothesis, several aspects of one’s lifestyle can increase one’s vulner-
ability to being sexually assaulted. For example, a prior sexual assault may increase one’s
risk for sexual assault during college (Follette et al., 1996; Gidycz, Orchowski, King, &
Rich, 2008; Hines, 2007; Koss & Dinero, 1989). Increased time in situations that moti-
vated offenders seek out might also increase vulnerability (e.g., high levels of alcohol
and drug use; Fisher et al., 2000; Koss & Dinero, 1989; Reed et al., 2009; Schwartz &
Pitts, 1995; Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2001). Conversely, using protective measures against
an assault (e.g., educating self about victimization) may decrease vulnerability (Felson,
1998). Although the extant literature has focused on this hypothesis in women, it may hold
true for male victims of sexual assault as well. In fact, Tewksbury and Mustaine (2001)
found that male victims who are active in college athletic teams, and involved in partying
and socializing, were more at risk for serious sexual assault.

PRESENT STUDY AND HYPOTHESES

This study uses a large, multiyear sample of college students to investigate gender dif-
ferences in the prevalence and context of sexual assault victimization. We hypothesized

Sexual Assault Victimization 925

that women would be sexually assaulted at higher overall rates and frequencies than men.
Further, we hypothesized that most of both genders would report drinking and/or drug use
by both themselves and their perpetrators during sexual assault incidents. Given the paucity
of research on the context in which male sexual assault victimization occurs, we offered no
other specific hypotheses regarding potential gender differences victimization contexts.

We also explored gender differences in the predictors of sexual assault. The chosen
predictors were guided by the vulnerability hypothesis and included the demographics of
the participants, the activities they engage in on a daily basis (e.g., studying, socializing),
their level of alcohol and drug use, other violent victimization, and self-protective measures
(Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2001). We hypothesized that living on campus and being non-
White would put students at increased risk for sexual victimization. We also hypothesized
that certain activities, such as time spent socializing/partying, would make them vulnerable;
whereas other activities, such as time spent studying, would make them less vulnerable.
Further, we hypothesized that alcohol and drug use would make them more vulnerable,
as would other victimization. Finally, we hypothesized that self-protective measures, such
as educating themselves about interpersonal violence, would make them less vulnerable.
Given that routine activities theory is not a gender-specific theory, we did not hypothesize
that there would be gender differences in the prediction of sexual assault victimization.

METHODS

Participants and Procedure

Participants included 1,916 students (535 male, 1,381 female; mean age 5 20.81 years,
SD 5 3.20) from a small Northeastern university. Demographic characteristics were
roughly equivalent to the demographics of the student body, with a slight overrepresenta-
tion of women (72.1%; university is 60% women).

In November of 2008, 2009, and 2010, all students were sent an e-mail inviting them to
participate in an online, anonymous survey on safety and well-being at the university. The
survey was located within the secure survey software system maintained by the university.
Students were given 1 month to complete the survey and sent weekly reminder e-mails
to encourage survey completion. Raffle incentives were offered to increase participation.
To enter the raffle, participants were redirected to a separate survey on which they entered
their contact information. Prizes each year included one $100 gift card and twenty $20 gift
cards to the university bookstore.

In 2008, 2009, and 2010, 574 students (19.0% of the student body), 705 students
(22.8%), and 639 students (20.3%) participated in the survey, respectively. There were no
differences between survey years on major demographic variables, including gender, race/
ethnicity, and sexual orientation. However, in comparison to students in 2008, students in
2009 and 2010 were significantly older, less likely to be first-year students but more likely
to be graduate students, and more likely to live off campus. These demographic differences
are likely because of a different, intensive survey (unrelated to the current article) we con-
ducted with the first-year students earlier in the year in both 2009 and 2010, which possibly
decreased their willingness to participate in another survey conducted by the researchers.

The methods for this study were approved by the institution’s board of ethics. All stu-
dents were apprised of their rights as study participants. At the completion of the survey,
information on psychological resources and support services was provided.

926 Hines et al.

Measures

Demographics. Basic demographic information was collected, including age, gender,
race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, class year, and residence status.

Sexual Assault Victimization. Sexual assault victimization was measured with six ques-
tions modified from a survey developed at the University of New Hampshire (Banyard, Ward,
et al., 2007). These questions assessed how often (never, once, twice, 3–5 times, 6–10 times,
11–20 times, more than 20 times) someone forced, threatened, and engaged in nonconsen-
sual sexual contact or intercourse against the participants since the beginning of the academic
year. Participants were provided with the definitions of the terms used in the questions:
(a) “sexual contact—attempting or actually kissing, fondling, or touching someone in a sexual
intimate way, excluding sexual intercourse”; (b) “unwanted sexual contact—those situations
in which you were certain at the time that you did not want to engage in the sexual experi-
ence and you either communicated this in some way . . . or you were intimidated or forced
by someone or you were incapacitated . . . ”; (c) “sexual intercourse—any form of sexual
penetration including vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and anal intercourse”; and (d) “unwanted
sexual intercourse—those situations in which you were certain at the time that you did not
want to engage in the sexual experience and you either communicated this in some way . . .
or you were intimidated or forced by someone or you were incapacitated. . . .”

They were then given the following instructions: “Since school began in September
2008/09/10, please indicate the number of times that anyone, male or female (including
people you know), has done the following things to you.” Questions included “physically
forced you to have sexual contact against your wishes,” “threatened to harm you to have
sexual contact against your wishes,” “had sexual contact with you when you were so
intoxicated that you were unable to consent,” “physically forced you to have sexual inter-
course against your wishes,” “threatened to harm you to have sexual intercourse against
your wishes,” and “had sexual intercourse with you when you were so intoxicated that
you were unable to consent.” If participants indicated any sexual assault victimization,
they were asked follow-up questions regarding the most recent incident. These questions
included information regarding whether the victim and/or perpetrator were drinking and/
or using drugs during the incident, what the victim was doing at the time of the sexual
assault, the time of day the sexual assault occurred, the location of the sexual assault,
demographic characteristics of the perpetrator, and whether and what types of injuries
were sustained.

Daily Activities. We asked participants whether they participated in any of the student
clubs on campus; clubs were grouped according to the rubric established by the univer-
sity’s Office of Student Life (see Table 1). We asked participants to indicate the number
of weekends per month they spent away from campus and the number of hours per week
they typically engaged in working, watching TV, playing videogames, using the Internet
for personal reasons, studying, meeting with faculty, exercising, partying, socializing, and
doing service work.

Drinking and Drug Use. Participants were asked two questions regarding their use
and abuse of alcohol: “How often do you drink alcohol?” (response options: never, less
than once per week, once per week, twice per week, three to four times per week, five or
more times per week) and “On average, when you drink, how many drinks do you have
in an evening?” (response options: I don’t drink, less than one drink, one to two drinks,
three to four drinks, five to six drinks, seven or more drinks). They were also asked, “How
often do you use marijuana?” with the following response options: never, less than once

Sexual Assault Victimization 927

TABLE 1. Bivariate Associations Among Routine Activities Theory Variables and
Being the Victim of Sexual Assault

Victim of Any Sexual Assault

Men
(n 5 535)

Women
(n 5 1,381) z

Demographics

Age 2.04 2.06* 0.39

Year in school 2.01 2.06* 0.98

Sex orientationa 2.15** 2.02 2.57**

Race/ethnicity

Asian 2.02 2.04 0.39

Black 2.03 2.02 0.20

White .01 .01 0.00

Native American 2.02 .03 0.98

Latino/Latina .02 .00 0.39

Minority 2.02 2.03 0.20

Transfer student .05 .01 0.78

Lives on campus .01 .02 0.20

Activities of daily life

Number of weekends away from campus
per month

.01 2.03 0.78

Is a participant in

Intramural/club/intercollegiate sports .05 .00 0.98

Academic/political club .00 .02 0.39

Arts/media/entertainment club .01 .00 0.20

Cultural/region club .05 2.03 1.57

Environmental/service club .09* .06* 0.59

Number of hours per week spent

Working 2.04 .00 0.78

Watching TV/playing video games .11** .05 1.18

On Internet (personal use) .14** .10*** 0.80

Studying/meeting with faculty .03 2.01 0.78

Exercising .03 2.01 0.78

Partying/socializing .18*** .08** 1.99*

In community service .02 .03 0.20

(Continued)

928 Hines et al.

TABLE 1. Bivariate Associations Among Routine Activities Theory Variables and
Being the Victim of Sexual Assault (Continued)

Victim of Any Sexual Assault

Men
(n 5 535)

Women
(n 5 1,381) z

Drug and alcohol use

Smokes .01 .10*** 1.77

Alcohol use

Used alcohol .09* .07** 0.39

Number of times drinking per week .12** .12*** 0.00

Number of drinks per occasion .11* .11*** 0.00

Marijuana use

Used pot .04 .10** 1.18

Frequency of pot use .08 .08** 0.00

Other drug use

Used any drug .07 .11*** 0.79

Frequency of drug use .20*** .18*** 0.41

Other victimization experiences

Stalking victim .07 .13*** 1.19

Total number of stalking incidents .10* .14*** 0.80

DV victim .19*** .08* 2.20*

Total number of DV incidents .29*** .03 5.26***

Severe DV victim .26*** .06 4.04***

Total number of severe DV incidents .36*** .02 6.99***

Self-protective measures

Carried a nonlethal weapon (mace, pepper
spray, screamer, and/or keys in a defensive
manner)

.03 .04 0.20

Carried a lethal weapon (knife, firearm) .07 .05* 0.39

Had someone walk them after dark .09* .02 1.38

Used campus escort service 2.04 .03 1.37

Recalls being provided with info about following by the university

Interpersonal violence info (DV, sexual
assault, and/or stalking)

.00 .04 0.78

Alcohol/substance abuse info .03 .05 0.39

Note. DV 5 dating violence.
aSexual orientation: 1 5 heterosexual; 0 5 nonheterosexual.
*p , .05. **p , .01. ***p , .001.

Sexual Assault Victimization 929

per week, once per week, twice per week, three to four times per week, and five or more
times per week.

Drug use was measured with two questions. First, participants provided yes or no
responses to each of the drug categories in the following question: “Since September of
2008/09/10, have you ever used any of the following drugs? Cocaine/crack; speed, ice,
uppers; downers; hallucinogens (LSD, mushrooms, PCP); sniffing/huffing (glue, aero-
sols); heroin; ecstasy/Special K.” Second, they were asked, “How often do you use these
other drugs?” with the following response options: never, less than once per week, once
per week, twice per week, three to four times per week, and five or more times per week.

Other Victimization Experiences. To assess stalking victimization, we administered
modified versions of Spitzberg and Cupach’s (1997, 2000) measures of stalking and
cyber-pursuit victimization. We merged the two measures and simplified the language. The
resultant measure included 15 items assessing potential stalking victimization behaviors.
Participants were given the following instructions: “Since school began in September
2008/09/10, not including bill collectors, telephone solicitors, or other salespeople, please
indicate the number of times that anyone, male or female (including people you know),
has done the following things to you.” Sample items include “followed or spied on you,”
“sent unwanted or threatening text messages to you on your cell phone,” and “spread
rumors about you through e-mail, chat rooms, social networking sites, the Internet, or
other electronic means.” Participants were given the same response options as for the
sexual victimization items. Participants who indicated that at least one of these incidents
happened to them at least once were asked if these incidents caused fear, distress, both, or
neither. Participants were coded as stalking victims if they reported at least two stalking
behaviors and were distressed and/or fearful because of those behaviors.

To assess dating violence (DV) victimization, we used the physical violence victim-
ization scale of the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, &
Sugarman, 1996). Participants indicated on a 7-point scale the number of times (never,
once, twice, 3–5 times, 6–10 times, 11–20 times, more than 20 times) a dating partner had
perpetrated each of the 11 acts against them since the academic year started. Violent acts
ranged from minor acts (e.g., slapping, pushing, shoving) to severe acts (e.g., punching,
beating up, using a knife/gun).

Self-Protective Measures. We asked students whether they carried any nonlethal (e.g.,
mace, pepper spray) or lethal (knife, firearm) weapon while on campus, whether they had
someone walk them to their destination after dark, whether they used the university escort
service, and whether they recalled being provided with information regarding interpersonal
violence (DV, sexual assault, and/or stalking) and alcohol/substance abuse.

RESULTS

Gender Differences in Rates, Types, and Frequencies of Sexual Assault

Table 2 presents rates and frequencies of sexual assault for both genders since the begin-
ning of the academic year. Women (6.6%) were significantly more likely to be sexually
assaulted than men (3.2%). When we analyzed the prevalence rates by the six types of
sexual assault, we found that the gender differences seemed to be because of women’s
significantly greater likelihood of experiencing forced sexual contact and sexual contact
when too intoxicated to consent. Among victims, there were no gender differences in the
number of times they were victimized by each type of sexual assault.

930 Hines et al.

Gender Differences in the Context of Sexual Assault

For both genders, most assaults (men: 82.3%; women: 85.7%) occurred at night or very late
at night (Table 3). There were two gender differences in what the victim was doing at the
time of the assault: Women were significantly more likely to be engaging in a leisure activ-
ity away from their living quarters (women: 58.2% vs. men: 23.5%), whereas men were
significantly more likely to be on a date (men: 20.0% vs. women: 5.3%). For both genders,
most victims were sexually assaulted after a party (men: 64.7%; women: 58.6%).

In addition, most of both male and female victims reported that both them and their per-
petrator had been drinking at the time of the sexual assault, with men being more likely to
report that the perpetrator (men: 87.5% vs. women: 66.7%) and the participant (men: 88.2%
vs. women: 66.7%) had been drinking at the time, although these differences were only mar-
ginally significant. Moreover, men were more likely than women to report that the perpetrator

TABLE 2. Gender Differences in the Rates and Frequency of Sexual Assault

Men Women t or x2

Rates n 5 535 n 5 1,381

Victim of at least one act of sexual assault 3.2% 6.6% 8.44**

Victim of at least one act of forced
sexual contact

0.7% 3.3% 9.77**

Victim of at least one act of threatened sexual
contact

0.6% 0.5% 0.02

Victim of at least one act of sexual contact
when too intoxicated to consent

1.5% 3.7% 6.25*

Victim of at least one act of forced sexual
intercourse

0.6% 0.4% 0.14

Victim of at least one act of threatened sexual
intercourse

0.4% 0.4% 0.04

Victim of at least one act of sexual intercourse
when too intoxicated to consent

1.9% 1.8% 0.01

Frequency among victims n 5 17 n 5 91

Total sexual assaults 2.88 (4.41) 3.44 (6.56) 0.34

Forced sexual contact 0.47 (1.07) 0.88 (1.44) 1.11

Threatened sexual contact 0.24 (0.56) 0.19 (0.76) 0.25

Sexual contact when too intoxicated
to consent

0.71 (1.05) 1.40 (3.27) 0.86

Forced sexual intercourse 0.41 (1.06) 0.11 (0.50) 1.15

Threatened sexual intercourse 0.29 (0.99) 0.16 (0.89) 0.58

Sexual intercourse when too intoxicated to
consent

0.76 (0.97) 0.74 (2.78) 0.03

*p , .05. **p , .01.

Sexual Assault Victimization 931

TABLE 3. Gender Differences in the Context of Sexual Assault

Men
(n 5 17)

% or M (SD)

Women
(n 5 91)

% or M (SD) t or x2

Time of day 2.08

After dusk, before midnight 23.5 12.1

After midnight, before dawn 58.8 73.6

After dawn, before dusk 5.9 6.6

Don’t know/don’t remember/left blank 11.8 7.7

What was victim doing at the time?

In class 5.9 1.1 1.80

At work 0.0 1.1 0.19

Engaging in leisure activities away from
victim’s living quarters

23.5 58.2 6.93**

Engaging in leisure activities in victim’s
living quarters

47.1 35.2 0.87

Sleeping 11.8 4.4 1.48

On a date 20.0 5.3 3.83*

At a party 40.0 35.5 0.11

After a party 64.7 58.6 0.22

At some other event 20.0 10.5 1.06

After some other event 35.7 16.5 1.69†

Alcohol/drug use

Involved perpetrator’s use of alcohol 87.5 66.7 2.80†

Involved victim’s use of alcohol 88.2 66.7 3.17†

Involved perpetrator’s use of drugs 18.8 10.1 1.00

Involved victim’s use of drugs 12.5 9.1 0.18

Location of sexual assault

Percentage on campus 58.8 44.0 1.27

Percentage of on campus that was in a
residence hall

80.0
(n 510)

92.3
(n 5 39)

1.32

Percentage of off campus that was (n 5 7) (n 5 49) 3.21

Near the university’s off-campus residences 71.4 46.9

On another university’s campus 28.6 20.4

(Continued)

932 Hines et al.

(men: 18.8% vs. women: 10.1%) and the victim (men: 12.5% vs. women: 9.1%) had been
using drugs at the time of the assault, although neither of these differences was significant.

There were no significant gender differences in the location at which the sexual assault
took place, but there were some gender differences in the characteristics of the victim’s per-
petrator. Specifically, men were significantly more likely to be assaulted by a woman (men:
73.3% vs. women: 2.3%) and someone who was a member (student, faculty, staff) of the
university community (men: 86.7% vs. women: 58.6%). Moreover, men were almost twice as
likely to be assaulted by a stranger (men: 21.4% vs. women: 11.6%), although this difference
was not significant. Finally, there were no gender differences in whether the participant was
injured as a result of the sexual assault. Just more than 5% of both genders reported injuries.

Gender Differences in the Prediction of Sexual Assault

To investigate the predictors of sexual assault, we separated the variables into various compo-
nents of the vulnerability hypothesis: (a) demographics, (b) activities of daily life, (c) drug and
alcohol use, (d) other victimization experiences, and (e) self-protective measures (Tewksbury

TABLE 3. Gender Differences in the Context of Sexual Assault (Continued)

Men
(n 5 17)

% or M (SD)

Women
(n 5 91)

% or M (SD) t or x2

In the same city, but not near the university 0.0 16.3

Outside of the city in which the university
is located

0.0 16.3

Perpetrator’s characteristics

Know anything about perpetrator 88.2 95.6 1.48

Percentage of perpetrators who are
strangers

21.4 11.6 1.02

Percentage of perpetrators who are male 26.7 97.7 57.42***

Percentage of perpetrators who are White 81.3 70.3 0.80

Percentage of perpetrators who are Black 0.0 11.0 1.94

Percentage of perpetrators who are Latino 6.3 8.8 0.11

Percentage of perpetrators who are Asian 6.3 4.4 0.11

Percentage of perpetrators who were
members of the university community
(student/faculty/staff)

86.7 58.6 4.31*

Age of perpetrator 22.38 (8.53) 21.55 (3.78) 0.35

Injuries

Percentage of victims who sustained an injurya 5.9 5.5 0.01

aMale injuries (n 5 1): One male sustained an internal injury; female injuries (n 5 5):
One sustained a torn vaginal/anal wall; four sustained a bruise/black eye/cut/scratches/
swelling.
*p , .05. **p , .01. ***p , .001. †p , .10.

Sexual Assault Victimization 933

& Mustaine, 2001). Next, we performed bivariate analyses separately by gender to investigate
which variables were associated with being the victim of a sexual assault, followed by Fisher’s
r-to-z transformations to test for significant gender differences in the correlations (Table 1).
For men, the only significant demographic variable was sexual orientation, with nonheterosex-
uals being more likely to be sexually assaulted. For women, age and year in school were both
significantly negatively associated with being sexually assaulted. The association between
sexual orientation and sexual assault victimization was significantly stronger for men, but
there were no other significant gender differences in the strengths of the correlations.

Among the activities of daily life variables, men who participated in service or environ-
mental clubs and who spent more time on the Internet, watching TV, playing video games,
and socializing and partying were also more likely to be sexually assaulted; whereas for
women, being in a service/environmental club and spending more time on the Internet and
socializing and partying were significantly associated with sexual assault victimization.
The association between partying/socializing was significantly stronger for men, but there
were no other gender differences in the strengths of the correlations.

Many of the drug and alcohol variables were associated with sexual assault victimiza-
tion for both genders. For men, frequency of alcohol and illegal drug use were associated
with being assaulted, as was whether the men used any alcohol and the number of drinks
that they typically consumed per occasion. For women, using cigarettes, alcohol, mari-
juana, and any other illegal drug were associated with sexual assault victimization, as was
frequency of drinking, marijuana, and drug use and the number of drinks typically con-
sumed per occasion. There were no significant gender differences in these correlations.

For other victimization experiences, men’s sexual assault victimization was consis-
tently correlated with all of the measures of DV victimization but not stalking, whereas
the opposite was true for women. Although there were no significant gender differences
in the strengths of the associations between stalking and sexual assault victimization, all of
the DV victimization variables had significantly stronger associations for men.

Finally, the few self-protective measures that were associated with being sexually
assaulted were in the opposite direction predicted. For men, having someone walk them
home after dark was positively associated with being sexually assaulted, and for women,
carrying a lethal weapon was.

Significant bivariate predictors were entered into a logistic regression equation for each
gender, where sexual assault victimization was the outcome variable, and the significant
demographic, activities of daily life, drug and alcohol use, other victimization experiences,
and self-protective measures variables were entered as predictors. Nonsignificant predic-
tors were removed one at a time until only significant predictors remained. For men, the
use of alcohol and total number of sustained DV acts presented issues of multicollinearity
and were not included in the model. Table 4 presents the final models for each gender.

For men, the equation was significant, x2(3) 5 32.48, p , .001, explained 27.5% of the
variance, but was only able to successfully predict 25.0% of the victims. Three variables
were unique predictors of sexual assault victimization: Heterosexual men were 75% less
likely to be sexually assaulted; for each additional hour spent socializing or partying per
week, men were 7% more likely to be a sexual assault victim, and for each additional act
of severe DV sustained, men were 2.25 times more likely to be a sexual assault victim.

For women, the equation was significant, x2(7) 5 69.22, p , .001, with 14.1% of the
variance explained, but only 4.8% of the victims successfully predicted. The significant
predictors included year in school, with each additional year in school being associated
with a 22% less likelihood of being sexually assaulted; time spent on the Internet, with each
additional hour being associated with a 4% increase in being sexually assaulted; number

934 Hines et al.

TABLE 4. Logistic Regression Results for the Prediction of Sexual Assault
Victimization by Gender

Predictors B SE Wald
Odds
Ratio p

Men

Sexual orientationa 21.41 0.71 3.90 0.25 .048

Number of hours
socializing/partying

0.07 0.02 10.58 1.07 .001

Number of severe acts
of dating violence
sustained

0.81 0.38 4.47 2.25 .035

Women

Year in school 20.25 0.10 6.00 0.78 .014

Number of hours
spent on the Internet
per week

0.04 0.01 9.06 1.04 .003

Number of days
drinking per week

0.17 0.06 9.15 1.19 .002

Number of days of
drug use per week

1.43 0.45 10.02 4.17 .002

Stalking victim 1.06 0.26 16.74 2.88 ,.001

Dating violence victim 0.80 0.38 4.58 2.23 .032

aSexual orientation: 1 5 heterosexual; 0 5 nonheterosexual.

of days drinking per week, with each additional day being associated with a 19% increase
in the odds of being sexually assaulted; number of days of drug use per week, with each
additional day increasing the odds of being sexually assaulted by 4.17 times; stalking vic-
timization, with stalking victims being 2.88 times as likely of being sexually assaulted; and
DV victimization, with DV victims being 2.23 times as likely of being sexually assaulted.

DiSCUSSiON

The aim of this study was to investigate potential gender differences in the prevalence,
contexts, and predictors of sexual assault against college students. Our first hypothesis
that women would be sexually assaulted at higher rates than men was supported.
Specifically, women were twice as likely to have been sexually assaulted within the
first 2 months of the academic year, results that are consistent with previous research
(Abbey, 2002; Aizenman & Kelley, 1988; Baier et al., 1991; Banyard, Ward, et al., 2007;
Bridgeland et al., 1995; Lottes & Weinberg, 1996; Reed et al., 2009; Rouse, 1988; Ryan,
1998). Although our prevalence rates were consistently lower than those found in other
studies of college students, we focused on sexual assault victimization within a narrow
period of 2 months. It is also important to note that although a significantly greater per-
centage of women than men reported sexual assault victimization, the rates among men are

Sexual Assault Victimization 935

concerning. Moreover, among victims, there were no gender differences in the frequency
with which they were sexually assaulted, with both male and female victims reporting on
average about three sexual assaults in those 2 months.

This study extends prior research by ascertaining what sexual assault acts accounted for
the higher prevalence rates among women. Contrary to the gendered definitions of rape
that conceptualize it as a crime against women (e.g., Fisher et al., 2000; National Victim
Center & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992), we found no gender dif-
ferences in the prevalence or frequency of forced or threatened sexual intercourse or in the
victims’ reports that they were too intoxicated to consent to sexual intercourse. Instead, the
gender differences were a function of forced sexual contact and being too intoxicated to
consent to sexual contact. These results are consistent with Banyard, Ward, et al. (2007)
who found that women reported significantly higher rates of unwanted sexual contact than
men, and with Hines (2007) who found no gender differences in rates of forced intercourse.
Our results also support assertions that we need to broaden our conceptualization of sexual
assault and rape victimization to include both genders.

This study also extends previous work by investigating gender differences in the context
of sexual assault. Consistent with prior research on women (Fisher et al., 2000; Reed et al.,
2009), almost 90% of the victimization against women occurred during the evening, late
night, or very early morning hours. Most victimization against women took place off cam-
pus. Alcohol was involved in most assaults; most of the women knew their perpetrators,
and most assaults occurred after a party. Of note, these findings were also true for men,
with the exception that most victimization for men occurred on campus. Also, there were
no gender differences in injury rates, which points toward the necessity of understanding
that both genders can be victimized at similar rates with similar physical consequences.

Although more similarities than differences existed between genders in the context
of victimization, there were some interesting differences as well. Consistent with prior
research (Choudhary et al., 2010; Weiss, 2010), men were more likely than women to be
assaulted by women; in fact, most perpetrators against men were women. When sexually
assaulted, men were more likely to be on a date than women (albeit only in a minority of
the sample), whereas women were more likely to have been assaulted away from living
quarters. Finally, men were more likely to report alcohol use by both the perpetrator and
themselves. Although only marginally significant, these findings differ from reports by
Reed et al. (2009) and Banyard, Ward, et al. (2007) who found no gender differences in
perpetrator and victim alcohol use. Future research should be conducted with larger sam-
ples of men to confirm whether sexual assaults on men more commonly involve alcohol.

We then used five components of the vulnerability hypothesis (Tewksbury & Mustaine,
2001) to predict sexual assault victimization. At the bivariate level, significant predictors
were found in all five components, with many of the same predictors being consistent
across gender. The final predictive models differed by gender, but both can be explained
by routine activities theory. Male victimization was predicted by time spent socializing and
partying, sustaining severe DV, and sexual orientation. Time spent socializing and partying
increases potential contact with a motivated offender, and most of this time in college is
spent without a capable guardian present. Surprisingly, none of the drinking and drug use
variables predicted sexual assault victimization for men, even though a large majority of
men were drinking at the time of their assault. Therefore, although drinking is a situational
factor that seems to increase vulnerability for men, drinking and drug use in general do not
predict men’s victimization, above and beyond the other variables assessed in this study.
This may be due to the high level of drinking among college men in general in comparison
to women (e.g., Banyard, Ward, et al., 2007).

936 Hines et al.

We also found a positive association between severe DV and reports of sexual assault
among men. Although we do not know whether the sexual assault and DV perpetrators
were the same for the male victims in this sample, one hypothesis is that having sustained
severe DV may be indicative of a volatile relationship where the victim is exposed to
both physical and sexual assault. However, previous research suggests that there is no
correlation among physical and sexual aggression perpetration among college women in
relationships (Hines & Saudino, 2003). Therefore, more research is needed to understand
why severe DV victimization puts men at risk for sexual assault victimization.

The concept of polyvictimization—that is, one person who experiences multiple types
of victimization across a certain period—may be useful in future research (Finkelhor,
2008). Although mostly studied among juveniles, this concept is also instructive for col-
lege victimization experiences because repeat victimization does not end when an ado-
lescent goes to college (Gidycz, Coble, Latham, & Layman, 1993; Gidycz et al., 2008;
Hines, 2007). Consistent with routine activities theory, explanations for polyvictimization
include traumagenic dynamics that can result from a prior victimization. These dynamics
may be the result of the emotional problems that arise as a result of a prior victimization,
which can then exacerbate social isolation, making victims more vulnerable to predators;
interfere with self-protective skills because victims either lack the ability to either detect
danger or stand up for themselves; be a sign of vulnerability that attracts predators; and
lead to dependent, sexualized, or indiscriminately affiliative behavior that leaves them
vulnerable to victimization (Finkelhor, 2008).

Finally, although most perpetrators against men were women, being gay or bisexual
was a significant risk factor for sexual assault victimization for men. Gay and bisexual men
are vulnerable to violent victimization because of antigay hostility (Herek, Gillis, Cogan,
& Glunt, 1997), with lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBTs) on college cam-
puses being at significantly higher risk for sexual and physical assault victimization (Reed,
Prado, Matsumoto, & Amaro, 2010). LGBTs on college campuses also report significantly
higher levels of alcohol and drug abuse (e.g., Reed et al., 2010), which could place them in
an even more vulnerable position for being sexually assaulted. Interestingly, being lesbian
or bisexual was not a risk factor for women, and therefore, the factors that specifically put
gay and bisexual men at risk for sexual victimization need to be identified.

For women, sexual assault was negatively predicted by year in school and positively
predicted by number of days of drinking and drug use per week, being a victim of stalking
and DV, and amount of time spent on the Internet. The relationship with year in school
is consistent with findings from Lisak and Miller (2002), which suggest that motivated
offenders may target first-year students because they tend to be younger, less experienced
with alcohol, less familiar with reputations around campus, and more concerned with fit-
ting in and making friends. However, year in school was not a predictor of male sexual
assault victimization, which means that predators who target men may be using different
criteria to identify vulnerability.

As expected, alcohol and drug use predicted sexual assault victimization for women.
Interestingly, only the number of days using per week was predictive of sexual assault
victimization, after all other variables were considered, which points toward the possibil-
ity that increasing the number of days that women are drinking and using drugs increases
their vulnerability to when they are likely to come into contact with a motivated offender,
findings that are clearly consistent with routine activities theory (Koss & Dinero, 1989).

The finding that stalking and DV victimization were predictive of sexual assault vic-
timization is consistent with prior literature (Fisher et al., 2000; Sabina & Straus, 2008;

Sexual Assault Victimization 937

Spitzberg & Cupach, 2007). However, we do not know whether the perpetrator of the
DV, stalking, and sexual assault is the same across victimization types in this study.
Nonetheless, research shows that any kind of prior victimization is predictive of future
victimization, and that this polyvictimization is more common in the later teenage years
(e.g., Finkelhor, 2008). Given that explanations for polyvictimization are consistent with
routine activities theory, it is not surprising that other types of victimization predicted
sexual assault victimization among women in this study.

Finally, the greater the amount of time women spent on the Internet for personal use,
the greater the likelihood of sexual assault victimization. One possible explanation for this
association is that they met a predator on the Internet, and time was spent with the perpe-
trator online while he was grooming them prior to meeting and sexually assaulting them
offline. Studies of online sexual predators focus on underage victims (e.g., Wolak, Finkelhor,
Mitchell, & Ybarra, 2008), but college women may be considered by online sexual predators
to be suitable targets because of the few capable guardians and this may be the first time
that their Internet activity is not being monitored. A second explanation is that a third vari-
able, such as social anxiety, may be related to both sexual assault victimization (either as a
predictor or result of the assault) and time spent on the Internet as an alternative to in-person
interactions (Mazalin & Moore, 2004). Future research should explore these possibilities.

Limitations and Future Research

There are several limitations of this research that merit discussion. First, there was a
limited period that the participants reported on—the first 2 months of the school year.
Therefore, associations found here may be larger if the period assessed was longer because
we would have more victims and greater ability to find significant associations and gender
differences. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the first 2 months of the academic
year may be an especially risky time for college students, particularly first years (Kimble,
Neacsiu, Flack, & Horner, 2008). Second, because this study was conducted across
3 years, it is likely that not all of our participants are independent of one another. Because
the survey was anonymous, we are unable to ascertain which participants completed
the survey in more than one survey year. Yet, we chose to keep the survey anony-
mous to increase the likelihood that participants would honestly report sensitive issues
(e.g., Heeren et al., 2008). If nonindependence of our sample was widespread, it is likely
that that could result in overestimating the associations found here.

Third, this study was correlational, and although we were able to use routine activities
theory to explain the associations, we cannot assume causality. For example, although drug
and alcohol use predicted sexual assault victimization for women, it is also feasible that
the women were using drugs and alcohol to cope with the psychological impact of being
assaulted. Longitudinal studies suggest that alcohol use is relatively stable over time and
that sexual victimization does not contribute to heavy drinking among women in the gen-
eral population (Testa, Livingston, & Hoffman, 2007), and diary studies show that sexual
victimization is three to nine times greater for women on days of heavy drinking (Parks &
Fals-Stewart, 2004). Nonetheless, longitudinal studies among college students assessing
the temporal associations of the significant associations found in this study are necessary.
Finally, although both of our regression models were significant and explained a good
portion of the variance in sexual assault, we were only able to correctly classify a minority
of the assault victims. Thus, future research needs to investigate additional variables that
would allow us to more precisely and correctly predict sexual assault victimization.

938 Hines et al.

implications

Our results show that researchers and practitioners need to include both men and women as
potential perpetrators and victims of sexual assault in both research design and intervention
programs. For researchers, focusing only on women as victims and men as perpetrators
can no longer be acceptable because there is mounting evidence that this view of sexual
assault is too narrow. We need more research on how different genders and people of
different sexual orientations experience sexual assault, specifically the context in which it
occurs, the physical and psychological consequences of being assaulted, their helpseeking
efforts, and the reactions of those to whom they disclose.

Prevention programs also need to broaden their conceptualization of sexual assault. Many
college prevention programs separate men and women, teaching women how to protect them-
selves and men not to perpetrate; however, such a technique overlooks a substantial portion of
potential sexual assault incidents. Bystander programs, however, may be useful in addressing
these limitations because they include many of the components of routine activities theory in
their content and can be revised to be gender and sexual orientation inclusive. For example,
the Bringing in the Bystander Program (Banyard, Moynihan & Plante, 2007; Banyard, Plante
& Moynihan, 2004) is a prevention program that promotes a proactive community that is
empowered to step in safely and intervene before, during, and after an assault occurs. This
program has demonstrated efficacy with students, student leaders, Greek members, and stu-
dent athletes (Banyard, Moynihan, & Grossman, 2009; Moynihan & Banyard, 2008) and can
easily be tailored to address the issues of all potential victims of sexual assault.

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Acknowledgments. The project described was supported by Grant Number Q18H090012-10 from
the U.S. Department of Education. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not
necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Education.

Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to Denise A. Hines, PhD, Clark University,
Department of Psychology, 950 Main St., Worcester, MA 01610. E-mail: [email protected]

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

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