Why Sexual Assault Survivors Do Not Report to Universities: A Feminist Analysis

AuthorAllen Mallory,Michelle Toews,Chelsea Spencer,Leila Wood,Sandra Stith
Published date01 February 2017
Date01 February 2017
C S Kansas State University
A M University of Texas–Austin
M T  S S Kansas State University
L W University of Texas–Austin
Why Sexual Assault Survivors Do Not Report
to Universities: A Feminist Analysis
The present study analyzed responses from 220
female survivors of sexual assault at a U.S. col-
lege campus. Guided by feminist thought, we
used thematic analysis to analyze survivors’ rea-
sons for not reporting their sexual assault to uni-
versity ofcials. Drawing on participants’ own
words, the most common reasons for not report-
ing included “It was not a big enough deal,”
“I didn’t know who to report to or that I could
report,” “It wasn’t related to the university,”
“I was afraid,” “Because I was drunk,” “Too
ashamed to report,” “I didn’t want to get him in
trouble,” and “Felt as if I would be blamed for
putting myself in the situation.” We conducted a
series of binary logistic regressionsto determine
which demographic and experiential variables
were associated with the thematic reason(s) for
not reporting. In the spirit of feminist praxis, we
offer implications for universities to remove bar-
riers for reporting sexual violence.
Over the past several years, increased attention
from administrators, faculty, student advocates,
survivors, and researchers has illuminated the
School of Family Studies and Human Services, Kansas State
University, 241 Campus Creek Complex, Manhattan, KS
66506 (cspencer@ksu.edu).
Key Words: College campuses, reporting, sexual assault,
sexual violence.
epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses.
The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study found
that approximately 19% of women were sexu-
ally assaulted during their enrollment in college
(Krebs, Lindquist, Warner, Fisher, & Martin,
2007). Another study examining sexual assault
and sexual misconduct on 27 college campuses
found that 23.6% of female undergraduate stu-
dents experienced nonconsensual sexual contact
while enrolled at their university (Cantor et al.,
2015). Further, givenunderreporting, these num-
bers may underestimate the incidence of sexual
assault (Sinozich & Langton, 2014).
Sexual assault survivors experience an array
of physical and mental health problems, includ-
ing anxiety, depression, weight change, sleep
problems, and a host of other traumatic reac-
tions (Black et al., 2011), and these effects are
often experienced over the long term (see Bor-
dere, 2017). The impact of sexual assault can
disrupt, or even end, college fors urvivors(White
House TaskForce to Protect Students From Sex-
ual Assault, 2014). Cultural norms that hold vic-
tims accountable for sexual violence and allow
for drinking to be used as an excuse for vio-
lence create a campus climate that negatively
impacts the educational experience for many
women (Buchwald, Fletcher, & Roth, 1993; Jor-
dan, Combs, & Smith 2014). Rape culture is
often embedded in university culture and leads to
a tolerance and normalization of the occurrence
166 Family Relations 66 (February 2017): 166–179

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