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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Pittsburgh Finds Sexual Assault Victimization Disproportionately Affects Certain Minority College Students; Inclusive Campus Climates May Lower Risk

Students who perceive that their college campus is more inclusive and welcoming of sexual- and gender-minority people have lower odds of being victims of sexual assault, according to a study led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

[Photo: Mr. Robert Coulter]

In a complementary study, the researchers found that some minority groups are at considerably higher risk for sexual assault in college than peers in majority groups. Published recently in the journal Prevention Science, it is among the first analyses to explore how populations with intersecting minority identities have varying risks of sexual assault victimization.

“Despite the formation of The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in 2014, few interventions have been shown to be effective in preventing such assault. Even fewer interventions are tailored for racial and ethnic minorities, and not one intervention has been evaluated with sexual- and gender-minority people,” said Mr. Robert Coulter, a doctoral candidate in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and lead author of both studies. “Our studies highlight the need for college prevention and treatment programs to focus efforts on sexual, gender, racial and ethnic minority groups.”

Mr. Coulter and his team analyzed surveys completed by 71,421 undergraduate students from 120 U.S. post-secondary education institutions between 2011 and 2013. Non-transgender women had nearly 150 percent greater odds of being sexually assaulted in the past year than non-transgender men. But transgender people were at even greater risk: They had nearly 300 percent higher odds of being sexually assaulted than non-transgender men.

“What is particularly unique about this analysis, aside from being one of the largest studies to examine sexual assault on college campuses, is that it provided insights into how sexual assault varies among populations with multiple and intersecting marginalized identities—such as being both transgender and black,” said Mr. Coulter.

In their other study, Mr. Coulter and his team examined surveys completed by nearly 2,000 sexual- and gender-minority undergraduates from colleges in all 50 U.S. states.

Students who perceived that their campus was more inclusive of sexual- and gender-minority people had 27 percent lower odds of having been sexually assaulted than their peers who felt their campus was less inclusive.

To read more, visit http://www.upmc.com/media/NewsReleases/2017/Pages/coulter-sex-assault.aspx