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43 Gender, peer networks, and sexual misconduct prevention education
  1. Miriam Gleckman-Krut,
  2. Meredith Philyaw-Kotov,
  3. Maureen Walton,
  4. Erin E Bonar
  1. US University of Michigan


Statement of purpose Roughly one in five US women and one in sixteen US men are sexually assaulted while in college. Sexual assault contributes to a range of psychological sequelae -- from depression to social withdrawal and sleep disturbances -- that hinder students’ ability to learn and fully participate in college. Mitigating this gender inequality in higher education has recently become a national priority; in 2011 the Department of Education clarified that it may withhold federal funds from schools that fail to adequately address sexual violence. Campus sexual violence precludes equal access to education. Its prevention is therefore crucial to promoting individual and national psychosocial health.

Methods This study relies on 19 interviews and 3 focus groups University of Michigan sophomores (n=38). We examine perspectives on existing campus anti’”sexual violence trainings. Our sample mirrors the demographics of the University by gender, race, sexual orientation, athletic status, and Greek-affiliation.

Results Respondents frame sexual assault as ‘˜someone else’s problem.’ Non-Greek affiliates blame Greek affiliates. Students involved with Greek Life reference non-University perpetrators. Women blame men; men blame women. Collectively, respondents construct ‘sexual assault’ as simultaneously everywhere and nowhere.

Contributions to Injury Prevention Programming The ‘˜everywhere and nowhere’ trend obfuscates a process of locating blame, and subsequently effective prevention efforts. Firstly, it muddles individuals’ self-reflection – if one does not conceptualise themselves as possible perpetrator, they are unlikely to critically evaluate their sexual experiences. Similarly, for potential victims, conceptually locating the issue elsewhere complicates one’s ability to interpret and label nonconsensual sexual encounters. Not understanding one’s own experiences as an assault can be a barrier to resources, recourse, and recovery. Prevention programming might take into account how sexual violence manifests differently across University sub-groups.

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