The effect of sexual victimization on the attitudes of college students: A longitudinal study

Tamara Leigh Baker-Sucoloski, University of Pennsylvania


Many studies have contributed to the understanding of rape, especially along the lines of post-traumatic stress disorder symptomatology. However, other types of sexual assault and how they impact on the victims need further study. The concept of sexual assault has recently been framed along a continuum ranging from coercive sex play (minor assault) to consensual intercourse following verbal persuasion to intercourse against a person's will by the threat or use of force (major assault). This study sought to expand upon the current knowledge base by furthering the understanding of the attitudinal effect of major and minor assault, as well as how sexual assault affects attitudinal change in victims across time. Subjects for the present study were students at a competitive private university on the east coast, who were surveyed as incoming freshmen in 1987 (N = 557) and again three years later as seniors (N = 303). The survey assessed general attitudes and values, as well as sexual attitudes and behaviors. The attitudes studied included just world beliefs, levels of empathy, rape supportive attitudes, disapproval of homosexuality, approval of feminism, approval of male dominance, kindness, social conscience, and liberalism. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to determine whether there were significant differences in attitudes among major assault victims, minor assault victims, and nonvictims, but no effect was found for group membership. Univariate analyses of variance were then conducted on each attitudinal measure, with no significant differences emerging. The major and minor assault victim groups were collapsed and a comparison was made between victims and nonvictims on each attitudinal measure. It was found that victims differed significantly from nonvictims with respect to levels of empathy. Longitudinal data pertaining to the attitudes of women who were victimized while in college were analyzed using repeated measures ANOVA. Victims did not differ from nonvictims with regard to attitude change, but when the groups were combined, they showed significant change over a three-year interval on four of the seven attitudes. Results are discussed from both theoretical and statistical standpoints and are enhanced by interview data.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Psychology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Baker-Sucoloski, Tamara Leigh, "The effect of sexual victimization on the attitudes of college students: A longitudinal study" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9503735.