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Reporting Sexual Victimization to the Police and Others: Results From a National-Level Study of College Women

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior: An International Journal Volume: 30 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2003 Pages: 6-38
Date Published
February 2003
33 pages

Building on the earlier work of Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski, the current study used a national, random sample of 4,446 female college students to examine the level and determinants of victims' willingness to report their sexual victimization.


Numerous changes in postsecondary education have occurred since Koss et al.'s 20-year-old study of college women's reporting of sexual victimization; for example, enrollment of women in college and universities has significantly increased during the past decade, and the changing social context and legal requirements mandated at these institutions may have altered the likelihood that women will report their victimization on self-report surveys and to campus authorities. To address these issues, this study used current national-level data to investigate the reporting of sexual victimization incidents by female college students. Using computer-aided telephone interviews, professionally trained female interviewers administered the survey to a national-level sample of 4,446 female college students enrolled at 233 selected postsecondary institutions during the spring of 1997. Three measures of reporting were used in the analysis to determine whether respondents decided to disclose an incident. The characteristics of incidents, offenders, victims, and contexts were operationalized to measure their possible influences on victims' decisions to report their sexual victimization. The analysis found that although few incidents, including rapes, were reported to the police and/or to campus authorities, a high proportion of victimizations were disclosed to someone else (mainly to friends). Incidents were more likely to be reported to the police when they had characteristics that made them more "believable" (e.g., presence of a weapon or assailant who was a stranger). The use of alcohol and/or drugs by offenders and/or victims had a unique effect, causing students to be more likely to disclose their victimization to friends but not to campus authorities. The implications of these findings for current debates and for future research are discussed. 5 tables, 3 notes, and 53 references

Date Published: February 1, 2003