Responding to College Campus Acquaintance Rape: Contextual Issues and the Challenge of Inter-Organizational Collaboration

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Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
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acquaintance rape
sexual assault
college campus
non-stranger rape
Social and Behavioral Sciences
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One in five college women are victims of acquaintance rape during their academic career and less than 5% of college women who are victims of sexual assault report their victimization (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). The historically stable prevalence of on-campus sexual assault as well as consistently low rates of reporting point to the need for a collaborative process between the campus personnel that are charged with responding to reports of on-campus sexual assault. Through intensive interviews with key campus informants this qualitative study addressed the following questions about the challenge of responding to on-campus acquaintance rape: 1) How do senior campus personnel understand the disparity between high prevalence rates and low rates of reporting; 2) What are the challenges of inter-organizational collaboration when responding to acquaintance rape; 3) What are the specific roles of on-campus supportive resources; and 4) What are successful elements of a coordinated approach to on-campus acquaintance rape? All study respondents acknowledged the disparity between prevalence and reporting and implicated the guilt, shame, and fear experienced by victim-survivors as a key factor in underreporting. Respondents blamed gender inequity, abuse of alcohol, and the developmental immaturity of male college students for high rates of on-campus acquaintance rape and described two distinct types of offending: situational offending refers to non-consensual sexual assault fueled by alcohol abuse and emotional immaturity; and pre-meditative offending refers to a more predatory trajectory, in which deliberate planning is enacted to manipulate and exploit vulnerability. Respondents identified trust between community partners as the most important aspect to successful collaboration. Trust refers to a collective agreement to protect the confidentiality of alleged victims of sexual assault and to guarantee victims' decision-making control throughout their post-assault recovery process. Respondents endorsed primary prevention models and harm reduction strategies to target on-campus acquaintance rape. Models for prevention focused on eliciting changes in campus culture and on targeting predation. A harm reduction approach focused on teaching students how to minimize their risk for victimization.

Lina Hartocollis, Ph.D
Ram A. Cnaan, Ph.D
William A. Alexander, Ph.D
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