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Recent Research on Sexual Assault

September, 2017

Dr. John D. Foubert, LLC



  1. Over a dozen meta analyses support the contention that alcohol and violence are strongly connected (Duke, Smith, Oberleitner, Westphal, & McKee, 2017).   

  2. Consuming alcohol, particularly at parties, increases the risk for a woman to be sexually victimized (Azimi & Daigle, 2017).

  3. The more maladaptive narcissistic traits a man has, the more likely he is to commit sexual violence (Mouilso & Calhoun, 2016).

  4. Men who perpetrate rape receive more pressure from friends to have sex by any means, reject egalitarian statements their friends make about women, and use more objectifying language about women (Jacques-Tiura, Abbey, Wegner, Pierce, Pegram, & Woermer, 2015).




  1. Some fraternities have particularly dangerous cultures.  Some men are drawn to certain fraternities where they believe they will be better able to commit sexual violence. These fraternities reinforce hostility toward and violence against women (Boyle, 2015).

  2. Fraternity men are more likely than other college men to be pressured to conform to masculine norms, to uphold those norms, and to accept the objectification of women.  These three characteristics are found to be the conduit between being in a fraternity and accepting sexual violence (Seabrook, Ward & Giaccardi, 2016).

  3. Men in fraternities are more likely to think that a woman’s ‘no’ is actually a sign that the man just needs to be persistent enough to hear the word ‘yes.’  In studies of men and women, in and outside the Greek system, fraternity men score higher than any group on believing that women offer token resistance.  This toxic viewpoint can help a potential rapist justify his coercive actions (Canan, Jozkowski, Crawford, 2016). 




  1. Perpetrators are more likely to be sexually abused as children, among other childhood traumas (Casey, Masters, Beadnell, Hoppe, Morrison, & Wells, 2017).

  2. Perpetrators are more likely to justify their activity with self-serving arguments.  Male perpetrators are more likely to use self-serving arguments to justify their behavior than men who are not perpetrators.  Perpetrators have higher levels of rape supportive attitudes, higher expectations for having sex, worse misperceptions of sexual intent, pursue victims’ more aggressively who have consumed alcohol, make more attempts to be alone with a victim.  As use of justifications increases, men become even more likely to rape again in the future (Wegner, Abbey, Pierce, Pegram, & Woerner, 2015). 

  3. Predictors of perpetration include aggressive and impulsive personality characteristics, rape myth acceptance, and the expectation that if a woman is drinking it is a sign that she wants to have sex (Davis, Danube, Stappenbeck, Norris, & George, 2015). 

  4. College students who are higher on ‘sensation seeking’ are more likely to commit sexual coercion against a partner (Garner, Spiller, & Williams, 2017).

  5. While earlier research suggested that females perpetrated only 6-15% of the rapes of men, there is growing research showing that female perpetration of men is more common than once understood.  This may be due to an increase of such incidents or an increased understanding by researchers that such incidents are possible.  Research now documents increasing cases of female perpetrated nonconsensual oral sex, vaginal and anal penetration with a finger or object, and intercourse (Stemple, Flores, & Meyer, 2017). 




  1. Pornography encourages college men to commit rape by modeling the behavior for them (Foubert, 2017).

  2. The more violent and degrading content there is in the pornography that men watch, the less likely they are willing to intervene in a situation that could turn into sexual assault (Foubert & Bridges, 2017).

  3. There are over a hundred (100+) studies showing that pornography use is both correlated with and is the cause of a wide range of violent behaviors; about 50 studies show a strong connection between pornography and sexual violence (Peter & Valkenburg, 2016).

  4. The more motivated college students are to view pornography, the less willing they are to intervene as a bystander in a potential sexual assault situation.  This is the case regardless of how frequently students view pornography (Foubert & Bridges, 2016). 

  5. A meta-analysis of 22 studies from 7 countries found that using correlational, cross-sectional, and longitudinal designs, pornography use and acts of sexual aggression were directly connected.  This connection held true for both men and women, and for verbal and physical aggression.  More violent pornography was even more strongly linked to sexual violence than less violent pornography (Wright, Tokunaga, & Kraus, 2015).


Rape Culture


  1. The higher people’s rape myth acceptance, the more they are critical of a survivor versus a perpetrator in a hypothetical rape case.  Participants with higher rape myth acceptance scrutinized information more closely about female survivors than about male perpetrators in a hypothetical scenario (Sussenbach, Eyssel, Rees & Bohner, 2017).

  2. When women deliver sexist jokes, men who are sexist report a higher likelihood of raping than when a man delivers the same sexist joke (Romero-Sanchez, Carretero-Dios, & Megias, 2016). 


Student Athletes


  1. Men on intercollegiate athletic teams are disproportionally represented as perpetrators of campus sexual assault (McCray, 2015). 

  2. Athletes are 77% more likely to commit an act of sexual coercion than non-athletes.  Most of these coercive acts involved force or threats of harm (Young, Desmarais, Baldwin, & Chandler, 2016).




  1. When men survive sexual violence, the sex of the perpetrator varies wildly based on the type of offense. Perpetrators of the rape of men are 9.5% female.  Perpetrators of “made to penetrate” offenses (the perpetrator somehow forces the survivor to penetrate him or her) are 78.5% female.  Perpetrators of sexual coercion are 81.6% female.  Perpetrators of unwanted sexual contact against men are 53% female.  By sheer numbers, the majority of sexual assault against men is committed by women.  The overwhelming majority of rape of men is committed by men. (Smith, Chen, Basile, Gilbert, Merrick, Patel, Walling, & Jain, 2017).  

  2. Most male rape victims do not resist a rape for very long given the threat of violence administered to them.  Most victims, 73%, reacted with submission, frozen fear, or helplessness. (Javaid, 2015).

  3. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators when a woman is the survivor.  Fully 93% of perpetrators of women are men.  About 7% of perpetration situations involve either a male and female perpetrator or a female perpetrator acting alone (Stemple, Flores & Meyer, 2017).

  4. College women who saw a rape awareness program called The Women’s Program (Foubert, 2011) had a

       greater ability to recognize risk cues in a dangerous situation that could turn into rape, a greater willingness to  

       defend themselves if a rape were about to occur, and a greater level of self-efficacy in dangerous dating

       situations than those in a control group (Bannon & Foubert, 2017).

  1. Male and female college students are more likely to experience sexual assault in college if they were sexually abused as children, have casual sexual encounters more frequently, and consume more alcohol than other students.  Female college students are also more likely to experience sexual assault if their expectation is that when alcohol is being consumed, sex is more likely to take place. (Tyler, Schmitz, Rachel, & Adams, 2017).

  2. If a woman in college experiences oral or anal rape in addition to vaginal rape, her degree of anxiety, depression, trauma-related symptoms, and dysfunctional sexual behavior are higher than with vaginal rape alone (Pinsky, Shepard, Bird, Gilmore, Norris, Davis, & George, 2016). 

  3. College women who survive rape are more likely to file a report with their university if they have gotten sexual assault training, if the assault involved vaginal or oral penetration, and if the survivor had a positive perception of the overall campus climate.  She is less likely to file a formal report if she knew the perpetrator and if she is a racial or ethnic minority.   (Spencer, Stith, Durtschi, & Toews, 2017).  

  4. If a woman experiences sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking, she is significantly more likely to have lower self-efficacy for her academics, more stress related to her studies, a lower commitment to her institution, and lower levels of commitment toward her academic work.  Also, the more kinds of victimization women experience, the more negative academic outcomes they experience (Banyard, Demers, Cohn, Edwards, Moynihan, Walsh & Ward, 2017). 

  5. Women who have experienced sexual assault have more severe PTSD symptoms in an attack where they were more intoxicated than in one where they were less intoxicated (Jaffe, Steel, & DiLillo, 2017).




Azimi A.M., Daigle L.E. (2017) Promising avenues for prevention: Confronting sexual victimization on college campuses. In: Teasdale B., Bradley M. (eds) Preventing Crime and Violence. Advances in Prevention Science. New York: Springer.


Bannon, R.S. & Foubert, J.D. (2017). The bystander approach to sexual assault risk reduction: Effects on risk recognition, perceived self-efficacy, and protective behavior. Violence and Victims, 32(1), 46-59.


Banyard, V. L., Demers, J.M., Cohn, E.S., Edwards, K.M., Moynihan, M.M., Walsh, W.A., & Ward, S.K. (2017).  Academic correlates of unwanted sexual contact, intercourse, stalking, and intimate partner violence: An understudied but important consequence for college students.  Journal of Interpersonal Violence, DOI: 10.1177/0886260517715022


Boyle, K.M. (2015).  Social psychological processes that facilitate sexual assault with the fraternity party subculture.  Sociology Compass, 9(5), 386-399.


Canan, S.N., Jozkowski, K.N., & Crawford, B.L. (2016).  Sexual assault supportive attitudes: Rape myth acceptance and token resistance in Greek and Non-Greek college students from two university samples in the United States.  Journal of Interpersonal Violence.  doi: 0886260516636064.


Casey, E.A., Masters, N.T., Beadnell, B., Hoppe, M.J., Morrison, D. M. & Wells, E.A. (2017). Predicting Sexual Assault Perpetration Among Heterosexually Active Young Men. Violence Against Women, 23(1) 3–27.


Davis, K.C., Danube, C., Stappenbeck, C.A., Norris, J. & George, W.H. (2015). Background predictors and event-specific characteristics of sexual aggression incidents: The role of alcohol and other factors.  Violence Against Women, 21(8), 997-1017.  


Duke, A A., Smith, Kathryn M. Z., Oberleitner, L. M. S., Westphal, A., McKee, S. A. (2017). Alcohol, drugs, and violence: A meta-meta-analysis.  Psychology of Violence,


Foubert, J.D. (2017).  How pornography harms: What teens, young adults, parents and pastors need to know. Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing.


Foubert, J.D. & Bridges, A. J.  (2017). Predicting bystander efficacy and willingness to intervene in college men and women: The role of exposure to varying levels of violence in pornography. Violence   Against Women. 23 (6), 692-706.


Foubert, J.D. & Bridges, A. J. (2016). What is the attraction? Understanding gender differences in reasons for viewing pornography in relationship to bystander intervention.  Journal of Interpersonal Violence, DOI: 10.1177/0886260515596538

Garner, A., Spiller, L.C., & Williams, P. (2017). Sexual coercion in the college population: A form of risk-taking behavior.  Journal of Interpersonal Violence,


Jacques-Tiura, A. J., Abbey, A., Wegner, R., Pierce, J., Pegram, S. E. & Woerner, J. (2015). Friends matter: Protective and harmful aspects of male friendships associated with past-year sexual aggression in a community sample of young men. American Journal of Public Health, 105 (5), p1001-1007. 


Jaffe, A.E., Steel, A.L., & DiLillo, D. (2017). Victim alcohol intoxication during a sexual assault: Relations with subsequent PTSD symptoms.  Violence and Victims, doi: 10.1891/0886-678.


Javaid, A. (2015).  Male rape myths: Understanding and explaining social attitudes surrounding male rape.  Masculinities and Social Change, 4(3): 270-294. 


McCray, K. (2015). Intercollegiate athletes and sexual violence: A review of literature and recommendations for future study. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 16, 438-443.


Mouilso, E.R. & Calhoun, K.S. (2016).  Personality and perpetration: Narcissism among college sexual assault perpetrators.  Violence Against Women, 22(10), 1228-1242. 


Peter, J. & Valkenburg, P. M. (2016): Adolescents and Pornography: A Review of 20 Years of Research, The Journal of Sex Research, DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2016.1143441


Pinsky, H., Shepard, M., Bird, E., Gilmore, A., Norris, J., Davis, K.C., & George, W. (2016).  Differences in mental health and sexual outcomes based on type of nonconsensual sexual penetration. Violence Against Women, 23(9),1039-1054.

Romero-Sanchez, M., Carretero-Dios, H., & Megias, J.L. (2016.  Sexist humor and rape proclivity: The moderating role of joke teller gender and severity of sexual assault. Violence Against Women, 23(8), 951-972.


Seabrook, R. C., Ward, L. M., Giaccardi, S. (2016). Why Is Fraternity membership associated with sexual assault? Exploring the roles of conformity to masculine norms, pressure to uphold masculinity, and objectification of women. Psychology of Men & Masculinity,


Smith, S.G., Chen, J., Basile, K.C., Gilbert, L.K., Merrick, M.T., Patel, N., Walling, M., & Jain, A. (2017). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010-2012 State Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Spencer, C., Stith, S., Durtschi, J., & Toews, M. (2017).  Factors related to college students’ decisions to report sexual assault Journal of Interpersonal Violence, doi:


Stemple, L., Flores, A. & Meyer, I.H. (2017).  Sexual victimization perpetrated by women: Federal data reveal surprising prevalence.  Aggression and Violent Behavior, 34, 302-311.


Sussenbach, P., Eyssel, F., Rees, J., & Bohner, G. (2017).  Looking for blame: Rape myth acceptance and attention to victim and perpetrator.  Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(15), 2323-2344.


Tyler, K.A., Schmitz, R.M., & Adams, S.A. (2017).  Alcohol expectancy, drinking behavior, and sexual victimization among female and male college students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(15), 2298-2322.


Wegner, R., Abbey, A. Pierce, J., Pegram, S.E., Woerner, J. (2015).  Sexual assault perpetrators’ justifications for their actions: Relationshiips to rape supportive attitudes, incident characteristics, and future perpetration. Violence Against Women, 21 (8), pp. 1018-1037.  


Wright, P.J., Tokunaga, R.S., & Kraus, A. (2015). A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies.  Journal of Communication. doi:10.1111/jcom.12201


Young, B. R., Desmarais, S.L., Baldwin, J.A. & Chandler, R. (2016).  Sexual coercion practices among undergraduate male recreational athletes, intercollegiate athletes, and non-athletes.  Violence Against Women, 23 (7).

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