Statement of Purpose Sexual violence (SV) is a serious problem on college campuses, and student-athletes are one group of college students at risk for experiencing SV. There is limited research about formal reporting of SV among student-athletes, so the goal of this study is to elucidate barriers to reporting SV among student-athletes.
Methods/Approach We surveyed student-athletes at ten National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I institutions across the US to understand their prior experiences of SV (e.g., unwanted sexual touch, nonconsensual sex), formal reporting of SV, and perceived barriers to reporting. We used a multi-method approach with descriptive statistics for closed-ended questions and qualitative content analysis for open-ended questions.
Results In our sample of student-athletes (n=1,004), 29% reported experiencing SV since enrolling at their university. However, only 9% of participants who experienced SV filed a formal report at their institution. Many reported being worried about social stigma (63%) and negative impacts on their team (47%) if they reported SV. Some stated they would feel worried about reporting SV because of their membership in a particular identity group (e.g., gender) (23%) and/or because of sport-related factors (31%). In open-ended responses, student-athletes reported being fearful of peer judgment or not being believed if they were to report because of stereotypes based on gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion. Sport-specific barriers included perceptions that coaches would respond negatively and that student-athletes might have their playing time reduced.
Conclusions Many student-athletes experience SV, and the vast majority do not formally report SV to their universities. Team dynamics and perceptions based on intersecting identities were salient concerns.
Significance Our results highlight the importance of tailoring campus SV intervention efforts for student-athletes, centering the experiences of marginalized students and addressing the specific barriers they face due to racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.
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