Abstract: Addressing Alcohol's Role in Sexual Assault for LGBTQ+ College Students (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Addressing Alcohol's Role in Sexual Assault for LGBTQ+ College Students

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
L.B. Klein, PhD, Anna Julia Cooper Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Rebecca Woofter, MPH, Doctoral Student, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Elliot Ruggles, PhD, Sexual Harassment & Assault Resources & Education Advocate, Brown University, Providence, RI
Rachel Stewart, M.Ed., Director, Connecticut College, New London, CT
Taylan Stulting, MA, MSW Student, Simmons College, The Bronx, NY
Andrew Rizzo, MS, PhD Student, University of New Hampshire, Durham, Durham, NH
Lee Cherry, MPH, CHES, Deputy Equity Officer for Administration, Intake, and Support, Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
Background: Alcohol is involved in most incidents of campus sexual assault (CSA; Krebs et al., 2009). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) students, especially bisexual women students and transgender students, are at higher risk of both sexual assault victimization and substance abuse than their cisgender, heterosexual peers (Ford & Solo-Marquez, 2016; Griner et al., 2017; Walters et al., 2013). However, they also feel left out of current sexuality education and CSA prevention efforts (Hobaica & Kwon, 2017). Findings emerged from qualitative study on addressing alcohol’s role in campus sexual assault that provide specific insights from campus-based sexual assault prevention educators on limitations to existing prevention programming and strategies for centering LGBTQ+ students in CSA and alcohol abuse prevention efforts.

Methods: The current study focuses on LGBTQ+-specific findings from a larger critical feminist community-based participatory action study (Authors et al., 2018; Fawcett & Hearn, 2004; Lykes & Hershberg, 2012). This study was conducted alongside Campus Advocacy and Prevention Professionals Association that consists of members who provide survivor advocates services and prevention educators working on or closely with college and universities to address CSA. Twenty-three participants were recruited from the CAPPA listerv and interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and independently coded by two researchers using an iterative content analysis approach facilitated by Atlas.ti. This process also involved reflexivity-centered debriefing, negative case analysis, constant comparison procedures, and memoing. The four researchers on the study team then engaged three practitioner co-authors due to their expertise in CSA prevention and LGBTQ+ issues.

Results: Prevention educators shared several limitations to existing efforts to address alcohol’s role in campus sexual assault that point to the importance of centering LGBTQ+ college and university students. Themes of those limitations included (1) hetero-cisnormativity; (2) stigmatization; and (3) representation. Subthemes that emerged were (1) cisnormative substance abuse prevention materials; (2) assumptions about masculinity and drinking; (3) stigma associated with using LGBTQ+-focused dating apps; (4) trepidation about entering LGBTQ+ spaces; (5) lack of LGBTQ+ representation in prevention programs; (6) lack of LGBTQ+ representation in media; and (7) tokenization of students holding multiple minoritized identities.

Conclusions and Implications: CSA and alcohol abuse prevention efforts should include both through targeted interventions for LGBTQ+ students and more LGBTQ+-affirming universal prevention efforts that center discussions of power, privilege, and oppression. Partnerships between CSA prevention educators, leaders of LGBTQ+ centers and spaces on and off campus, and LGBTQ+-focused media-makers would help to achieve these goals. Capacity building on LGBTQ+ issues for CSA prevention educators is also needed. Further implications for research, practice, and policy will be discussed.