Establishing a Baseline Prevalence of Unwanted Sexual Experiences in a New England University

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Spring 2011

Project Description/Abstract

The literature suggests that college students (particularly women) may be at an increased risk for sexual assault during their formative collegiate years (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 1999)(Karjane, Fisher, & Cullen, 2002)(Nasta, et al., 2005)(Krebs, Lindquist, & Warner, 2008). This study sought to expand our knowledge on sexual behavior amongst college students.

Specifically the study created a baseline prevalence dataset on the unwanted sexual experiences of students at Bridgewater State, a university twenty-five miles southeast of Boston. Bridgewater State University (BSU) has experienced high levels of significant growth in student admissions, similar to many public colleges and universities in the current economic crisis. Composed of four schools, BSU currently has 11,000 students, the fifth largest public university in Massachusetts. Given this growth, there was a long due need to document issues of sexual assault, coercion and their relationship with consent. Fisher’s 1999 campus sexual assault survey was modified and conducted via the web (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 1999). In an attempt to improve generalizability, the survey was conducted with the university’s ten (10) largest majors. This process resulted in strong interdisciplinary results, covering potentially sixty percent (60%) of the student population.

Survey items included an examination of prevalence, the type and frequency of unwanted sexual experiences, reporting, help-seeking behaviors and disclosure patterns as well as an assessment of existing formal and information social support systems. Numerous questions were also asked about the alleged perpetrator(s) including race, gender, relationship, etc. The study included data on students’ psychological state post sexual incident.

Findings from the research will expand our knowledge about collegiate student sexual behavior and strategies for the prevention and improved response of sexual assault. This baseline dataset will also allow for biannual replication, policy and program evaluations.


Fisher, B. S., Cullen, F. T., & Turner, M. G. (1999). Extent and Nature of the Sexual Victimization of College Women: A National-Level Analysis. Cincinnati OH: University of Cincinnati.

Harned, M. S. (2005). Understanding Women’s Labeling of Unwanted Sexual Experience with Dating Partners. Violence Against Women , 11 (3), 374-413.

Karjane, H. M., Fisher, B. S., & Cullen, F. T. (2002). Campus Sexual Assault: How America’s Institutions of Higher Education Respond. Newton, MA: Education Development Center.

Krebs, C. P., Lindquist, C. H., & Warner, T. D. (2008). The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study Final Report. RTI International, National Insitute of Justice (NIJ). Research Triangle Park: RTI International.

Nasta, A., Shah, B., Brahmanandam, S., Richman, K., Wittels, K., Allsworth, J., et al. (2005). Sexual Victimization: Incidence, Knowledge and Resource Use Among A Population of College Women. Journal of Pediatric Adolescent Gynceology, 18, 91-96.

Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (November 1998). Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Washington, D.C.: NIJCDC.

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