Candidate: Edith M. Fisher
of: Doctor of Philosophy
Title: The Social Construction of Rape Research: Exploring Epistemologies and Evaluating Methods
Tuesday, May 18, 2004 1:00-3:00 p.m.
The most widely known national study of rape found that one in four college-age women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape. Conservative writers have criticized that study for overestimating the possible prevalence of rape in the U.S. My research uses more sensitive instruments and administration techniques seeking to estimate the prevalence of rape in the lives of women at a large midwestern public university. I address question about the validity of previous rape research and compare methods of collecting sexual violence information by questionnaire (322 mailed surveys and 300 interview-administered surveys). Additional interviews with 62 of the participating using nine sexually explicit vignettes explore the meanings that women place on sexual violence terminology used in rape research. I find a significantly higher prevalence of rape than earlier research indicates, and similar prevalence of rape research. I find a significantly higher prevalence of rape than earlier research indicates, and similar prevalence rates of attempted rape, especially incidents in which the victim is voluntarily intoxicated at the time. When conceptualizing rape abstractly, women exhibit relatively high degrees of definitional clarity and consensus; however, when asked to assess concrete examples, these levels of clarity and consensus diminish dramatically. I discuss the implications of
these findings for policy development, future research, and for our understanding of rape and its impact on our selves, our relationships, and our society.
Dr. David Hartmann, Chair
Dr. Paula Brush
Dr. Rachel Whaley
Dr. Joetta Carr
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