This study used data from a nationally representative study of 4,446 female college students in order to identify the association between various types of protective actions and situational characteristics and the successful and unsuccessful prevention of nonrape sexual assaults.
The study found that many women used various techniques to protect themselves from unwanted sexual advances. The findings suggest the value of educating girls and women about the various protective measures that are likely to succeed under varying situations of attempted sexual assault. The level of force the women used to resist these unwanted advances tended to match the level and type of behavior and force used by the potential perpetrator. Generally, the use of such protective actions reduced the likelihood of completion for rapes, sexual coercion, and unwanted sexual contacts that used force; however, not all types of protective actions were equally effective in reducing the likelihood of the sexual assault being completed. Nonforceful verbal action was ineffective in reducing rape and unwanted sexual contact without force, but was effective in reducing the likelihood of sexual coercion and unwanted sexual contacts that used force. Similarly, forceful and nonforceful physical actions reduced the probability of rape being completed, but were not related to a reduction in the likelihood of completion for either sexual coercion or unwanted sexual contact that used force. In unwanted sexual contacts without the use of force, the use of forceful physical action actually increased the probability of completion. Although the use of forceful physical action by the women may not have prevented completion of the sexual assault, it did not increase a victim's risk of being physically injured. This study was part of a larger project, the 1997 National College Women Sexual Victimization study. 4 tables, 19 notes, and 43 references