Prevalence and Correlates of Sexual Assault Perpetration and Ambiguous Consent in a Representative Sample of College Students

Kate Walsh, Aaron L. Sarvet, Melanie Wall, Louisa Gilbert, John Santelli, Shamus Khan, Martie P. Thompson, Leigh Reardon, Jennifer S. Hirsch, Claude A. Mellins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

The primary aim of the current study was to examine the prevalence and correlates of self-reported sexual assault (SA) perpetration, defined as nonconsensual sexualized touching or attempted or completed oral, vaginal, or anal penetration since starting college among men, women, and gender nonconforming (GNC) students. A secondary aim was to examine the prevalence and correlates of self-reported sexual encounters when the respondent was unsure that their partner consented (ambiguous consent). In spring 2016, 1,671 randomly sampled students (67% response rate) at two interconnected urban undergraduate institutions participated in an online survey about sexual experiences and personal and social contextual correlates. Prevalence estimates for SA perpetration and ambiguous consent were estimated and logistic regression was used to test bivariate associations between these two outcomes and a range of potential correlates. Approximately 2% of students self-reported any SA perpetration and 9% reported any ambiguous consent experiences since starting college. Pre-college SA perpetration, past-year SA victimization, belief in and use of nonverbal consent strategies, binge drinking, and depression symptoms were associated with higher odds of both SA perpetration and ambiguous consent while at college. Hookups were associated with higher odds of ambiguous consent; family social support was associated with lower odds of ambiguous consent. Findings of similar correlates for SA perpetration and ambiguous consent point to prevention programming focused on verbal consent strategies, alcohol harm reduction approaches, and pre-college interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)NP7005-NP7026
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Volume36
Issue number13-14
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

Keywords

  • alcohol
  • consent
  • perpetration
  • prevention
  • sexual assault

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