Sociology, Department of

 

Date of this Version

5-2011

Citation

Women’s Health Issues 21:3 (May–June 2011), pp. 199–205; doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2010.12.002

Comments

Copyright © 2011 Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health. Published by Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.

Abstract

Purpose — We sought to examine relationships between women’s sexual orientations and their sexual assault experiences before and during university.

Methods — Self-reported responses on a web-based survey of 5,439 female undergraduates who participated in the Campus Sexual Assault study were analyzed to compare three groups: bisexuals, lesbians, and heterosexuals. Groups were compared in terms of the prevalence of sexual assault before and during university, and the extent to which sexual assault before university predicted sexual assault during university.

Findings — The prevalence of sexual assault before and during university was higher among bisexuals and lesbians compared with heterosexuals (25.4% of bisexuals, 22.4% of lesbians, and 10.7% of heterosexuals were sexually assaulted before university; 24.0% of bisexuals, 17.9% of lesbians, and 13.3% of heterosexuals were sexually assaulted during university). Sexual assault before university was highly predictive of sexual assault during university, especially among non-heterosexuals. Compared with heterosexuals not sexually assaulted before university (the referent group), previously assaulted non-heterosexuals (bisexuals/lesbians) had eight times the odds of sexual assault during university (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 8.75), whereas previously assaulted heterosexuals had four times the odds of sexual assault during university (AOR, 4.40). However, there was no difference in the odds of sexual assault during university between non-heterosexuals not sexually assaulted before university and heterosexuals not sexually assaulted before university.

Conclusion — Bisexual and lesbian women are more likely than heterosexual women to be sexually assaulted before and during university. Sexual assault before university is linked to sexual assault during university for all women, with this association being especially pronounced among non-heterosexuals.