Doctoral Dissertation
University of Oregon

CLOSE QUARTERS: COLLEGE WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES
OF CAMPUS SEXUAL VIOLENCE

By
MARINA N. ROSENTHAL

Defended & Completed June 2017
PhD to be granted 2018 after clinical internship

Advisor Freyd, Jennifer J.

Dissertation Abstract

College women face high rates of sexual violence and rarely report their experiences to school officials. Even when victims do report, their cases infrequently result in the expulsion of their perpetrators. As such, many college women continue to attend school with their perpetrators in the months and years following their assaults. No academic research has explored the experiences of these women coexisting with the person who harmed them. Furthermore, previous research on how perpetrators behave after acts of violence suggests the possibility that individuals who commit sexual assault on campus may try influence their victims after the assault by denying the assault, attacking the victim verbally, and reversing the victim and offender roles (a pattern referred to as DARVO).

The current study explores the experiences of 113 women who were sexually assaulted during college, with attention to the impact of any ongoing contact they had with their perpetrators after their assault. This study also examined participants’ responses to two different kinds of acquaintance rape vignettes which varied in victim resistance. The results of this dissertation suggest that most campus sexual victims do indeed experience some contact with their perpetrator after their assault and nearly half of victims who experience such contact see it as having a negative effect on their wellbeing. Although a relationship between perpetrator contact and student health outcomes (mental, physical, and academic) did not emerge as expected, participants’ written descriptions of seeing their perpetrators provide support for the theory that contact with perpetrators is detrimental to victims’ health. The effects of victims’ contact with perpetrators are evidently complex and warrant further exploration.

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