Abstract: Risk Factors for Pre-College Sexual Assault Perpetration (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

530P Risk Factors for Pre-College Sexual Assault Perpetration

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Katelyn Kennon, BA/BS, PhD Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Richard Tolman, PhD, Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background/Purpose: Research is lacking on perpetrators of campus sexual assault and the risk factors that distinguish them from the majority of their peers. Thus far, the study of risk factors for campus perpetration has most often been applied either to small samples, samples of few universities, or samples drawn from prison populations that do not include “undetected” perpetrators. We aim to examine risk factors for campus assault by male students who perpetrate prior to beginning college. Research suggests these men are also more likely to perpetrate after arrival on campus (Gidycz et al., 2007; Loh et al., 2005) and characterizes risk factors including rape-supportive attitudes such as hostile masculinity, rape myth acceptance, lack of empathy toward victims of assault; the perception of rape-supportive campus norms; and association with groups characterized in the literature as being high-risk for perpetration, such as fraternities and athletics. We hypothesize that rape-supportive attitudes, negative perceptions of school norms, and membership in high-risk groups will predict perpetration prior to campus attendance.  

Methods: We conducted secondary analysis of online survey data from self-identified cisgender, heterosexual (cishet) men (N=224840) who completed a pretest as part of participation in a sexual assault prevention program delivered to a large number of universities across the United States. We focus on cishet men as this group comprises the majority of perpetrators across campus and community samples. Respondents reported whether they perpetrated assault prior to their campus arrival. Respondents were asked a series of likert-scale questions measuring values, attitudes, and beliefs related to campus sexual assault, for which higher scores indicated healthier responses. Demographic data included the student’s intended involvement in a variety of campus groups. Three subscales emerged from the survey: 1) consent and responsibility (10 items, alpha=0.901), 2) bystander self-efficacy (4 items, alpha=0.828), and 3) perception of campus norms (5 items, alpha=0.849). A dichotomous variable was created for respondents’ involvement in high risk school groups. A separate dichotomous variable indicated pre-college perpetration. 4.2% of respondents answered that they didn’t know or preferred not to respond to perpetration questions; these types of answers were counted as “no” responses. Logistic regression examined associations between pre-campus perpetration, scale scores, and high-risk group involvement after adjusting for race. Because of the large sample size, we used p< .001 as the threshold for statistical significance.

Results: After controlling for race, lower scores on the consent and responsibility scale predict perpetration (p<0.001). Perpetrators did not significantly differ from non-perpetrators on bystander self-efficacy at the .001 level (p=0.004) or beliefs about social norms (p=0.885). Association with high-risk campus groups was significantly associated with perpetration (p<0.001).

Conclusions and Implications: Our results support consent education interventions early in the school year for male pre-college perpetrators. These interventions become especially pertinent for high-risk campus groups. Future research should examine college perpetration trajectories and associated changes in risk factors. Our further analyses will explore risk in those who declined to answer the perpetration question directly.