Screen Readers Skip to Content

Sexual Assault Victimization Disproportionately Affects Certain Minority College Students

Author: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Published: 17th Mar 2017
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Sexual Bullying Publications

Summary: Study reveals students who perceive their college campus is inclusive and welcoming of sexual and gender-minority people have lower odds of being victims of sexual assault.


Main Document

Students who perceive that their college campus is more inclusive and welcoming of sexual and gender minority people have lower odds of being victims of sexual assault, according to a study led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and published today in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

In a complementary study, the researchers found that some minority groups are at considerably higher risk for sexual assault in college than peers in majority groups.

Published recently in the journal Prevention Science, it is among the first analyses to explore how populations with intersecting minority identities have varying risks of sexual assault victimization.

"Despite the formation of The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in 2014, few interventions have been shown to be effective in preventing such assault. Even fewer interventions are tailored for racial and ethnic minorities, and not one intervention has been evaluated with sexual and gender minority people," said Robert Coulter, M.P.H., a doctoral candidate in Pitt Public Health's Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and lead author of both studies. "Our studies highlight the need for college prevention and treatment programs to focus efforts on sexual, gender, racial and ethnic minority groups."

Coulter and his team analyzed surveys completed by 71,421 undergraduate students from 120 U.S. post-secondary education institutions between 2011 and 2013.

"What is particularly unique about this analysis, aside from being one of the largest studies to examine sexual assault on college campuses, is that it provided insights into how sexual assault varies among populations with multiple and intersecting marginalized identities - such as being both transgender and black," said Coulter.

In their other study, Coulter and his team examined surveys completed by nearly 2,000 sexual- and gender-minority undergraduates from colleges in all 50 U.S. states.

Students who perceived that their campus was more inclusive of sexual- and gender-minority people had 27 percent lower odds of having been sexually assaulted than their peers who felt their campus was less inclusive.

The researchers hypothesize that sexual and gender-minority inclusive campus climates may embolden bystanders to stop, or attempt to stop, sexual assault of sexual- and gender-minority people. Such campuses also may dissuade perpetrators from targeting sexual- and gender-minority people. Additionally, inclusive campuses may empower people to reduce their likelihood of becoming sexual assault victims by, for example, being cautious when drinking alcohol.

Examples of potential ways to make colleges more inclusive include programs that train faculty, staff and students how to be allies for sexual and gender minority people; forming resource centers and student groups for these minorities; as well as creating and enforcing anti-discrimination policies that protect these groups.

"If sexual assault prevention efforts solely focus on heterosexual violence, they may invalidate sexual- and gender-minority people's assault experiences and be ineffective for them," said Coulter. "To overcome this, existing programs could be augmented to explicitly address homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and racism. And new interventions could be created specifically for sexual, gender, racial and ethnic minorities."

Susan R. Rankin, Ph.D., of Rankin & Associates Consulting in Howard, Pa., is co-author on the Journal of Interpersonal Violence study.

Additional authors on the Prevention Science study are Christina Mair, Ph.D., and Derrick Matthews, Ph.D., M.P.H., both of Pitt; Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC; John R. Blosnich, Ph.D., of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and Heather L. McCauley, Sc.D., of Michigan State University.

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants F31DA037647, K12HD043441 and R01AA023260, Department of Veterans Affairs grant CDA 14-408, and Campus Pride.

Post to Twitter Add to Facebook

Latest Sexual Bullying Publications

The above information is from our reference library of resources relating to Sexual Bullying that includes:

Researchers were particularly interested in two types of empathy, affective and cognitive, and how they differed in cyberbullied children. Image Credit: Florida Atlantic University. thumbnail image
Florida Atlantic University study first to explore empathy types in early U.S. adolescents and the relationship to online bullying.
Publish Date: 8th Aug 2022 - Updated: 5th Jan 2023
Romantic Relationships Buffer Gay and Lesbian Youth from Emotional Distress thumbnail image.
Lesbian and gay youth showed significantly less psychological distress and were buffered against the negative effects of bullying and victimization when they were in a relationship.
Publish Date: 15th Feb 2018
Opinion: Sexual Harassment: Doing Nothing Not an Option thumbnail image.
While the current discussions of sexual harassment have raised awareness for many, it will be meaningless unless it results in a change of behavior.
Publish Date: 21st Dec 2017
Resilience to Adversity Determines if Children Survive or Thrive When Bullied thumbnail image.
Article looks at whether there is a major personal characteristic or trait that buffers and protects kids against internalizing the harm intended through bullying and cyberbullying.
Publish Date: 15th Oct 2017


1How Many Genders Are There?
Alphabetical list of gender identities.

2Transgender Reporting Guide
How to write about transgender people.

3Glossary of Sexuality Terms
Definitions of sexual terms & acronyms.

4Glossary of Sexual Identities
Definitions of gender related terms.

5Am I Gay? Questions to Ask
Think you may be gay or bisexual?

• Submissions: Send us your coming events and LGBTQ related news stories.


• Report Errors: Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.



• (APA): University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. (2017, March 17). Sexual Assault Victimization Disproportionately Affects Certain Minority College Students. SexualDiversity.org. Retrieved April 13, 2024 from www.sexualdiversity.org/discrimination/bullying/738.php


• Permalink: <a href="https://www.sexualdiversity.org/discrimination/bullying/738.php">Sexual Assault Victimization Disproportionately Affects Certain Minority College Students</a>