Sherrie L. Maher
Doctor of Philosophy
Title: Identifying Behavioral Risk Factors for Acquaintance
Rape in College Women
Dr. Amy Naugle, Chair
Dr. C. Richard Spates
Dr. Lester Wright Jr.
Dr. Elaine Phillips
June 19, 2003, 1:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
3715 Wood Hall
Acquaintance rape is a serious and widespread
problem on college campuses (Emmers-Sommer & Allen, 1999; Marx,
Van Wie, & Gross 1996; Pinzone-Glover, Gidycz, & Jacobs, 1998;
Sawyer, Desmond, & Lucke, 1993;Yescavage, 1999) with documented
prevalence rates as high as one in four among college women. There is
an emerging interest in identifying potential behavioral factors that
are associated with increased risk for sexual victimization. One possible
explanation is that victimized women may have difficulty assessing whether
a social or interpersonal situation is risky (Naugle & Follette,
1994; Wilson, Calhoun, & Bernat, 1999). Additionally, prior victimization
experience could result in an impoverished repertoire (Naugle, 1999).
That is, even if one adequately identifies danger or risk, they may
lack the requisite skills for effectively dealing with the situation.
Previous research attempted to empirically investigate these notions
and found that women with a prior victimization history rated videotaped
vignettes as depicting more risk than did women who had not been sexually
victimized. Although they rated the scenarios as being riskier, previously
victimized women were more likely to acquiesce to the offers of the
males in the vignettes than were non-victimized women. The current study
aimed to extend this line of research by focusing on specific skills
that may play a role in increased risk for acquaintance rape.
The current study utilized a videotaped scenario to assess sexual communication
skills among a sample of 105 undergraduate women. This study sought
to identify specific communication strategies that may serve as risk
or protective factors in potential acquaintance rape situations. Given
that women with a prior sexual victimization history are at increased
risk for subsequent sexual assault, it was of specific interest to determine
whether these women exhibit particular communication skills deficits
in dating situations. Therefore, using a videotaped methodology, the
current study investigated differences in behavioral responding across
women who have had a single incident victimization history (n=28), women
with more than one incident of sexual assault (n=30), and women with
no victimization history (n=47). It is believed that identifying behavioral
risk factors will allow for the development of better prevention programs
targeted at promoting specific skills that will effectively decrease
the likelihood of sexual victimization.
Undergraduate females were asked to watch a 5 minute videotaped vignette
depicting a dating scenario between a male and female. Each participant
was instructed to verbally respond to the situation they had just watched.
The participants' responses were coded using the Behavioral Assessment
of Risk Recognition Coding System (BARR) to determine the degree of
the participants' acquiescent or refusal responses. Subjects completed
ratings regarding their reactions to the videotaped situation across
several domains, including the level of risk depicted in the scenario.
In addition, participants completed a number of self-report questionnaires
regarding their prior sexual experiences, dating behaviors, and level
of psychological distress. Results indicated that participants who do
not have a victimization history detected more risk than women who have
a history of victimization, although this finding was not statistically
significant. Additional results are discussed in terms of differences
in behavioral responding between the three groups. Implications for
developing skills-based intervention and prevention programs are addressed.
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