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Identifying Sexual Assault Mechanisms Among Diverse Women

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $288,152)

Sexual minority women (i.e., lesbian and bisexual; SMW) have been identified as a group at particularly high risk for experiencing sexual assault (SA), yet our justice system often inadequately responds to their needs. Experiences of bias and stigma contribute to lower rates of SA reporting by this population, resulting in victims with unmet needs and fewer criminal prosecutions of SA perpetrators. However, few empirical studies have systematically examined SMWs' risks for SA, the nature of their SA experiences, and their post-assault experiences. Mixed methods data collected from lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women in the proposed study will provide novel data that are critically needed to inform new criminal justice policies and procedures that will be more responsive to these vulnerable women's needs. Aim 1 of the proposed study will be accomplished via baseline self-administered surveys with 225 lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women (75 each group, 18-35 years old, recruited from Buffalo, NY) to determine sexual identity differences in the relationships among individual-level risk factors (i.e., childhood sexual abuse, perceived discrimination, sexual history, PTSD, substance use and related problems) and ASA. Aim 2 is to determine sexual identity differences in the temporal relationship between ASA and various mechanisms that elevate ASA risks (e.g., substance use, micro-aggressions, sexual partners). This aim will be accomplished through daily, web-based reports from participants (N = 225). Qualitative interviews will be used to identify sexual identity differences in the characteristics of, and mechanisms associated with women's ASA experiences, particularly women's resistance strategies;assault consequences; and post-assault disclosure, legal reporting, and informal and formal sources of support. Pilot testing, compliance checks, and the utilization of psychometrically-sound instruments will ensure valid and reliable results. Data collection will occur on a rolling basis during the three year study and up-to-date findings will be reported to NIJ via interim and final reports. Data will be analyzed using well-established techniques, including Ordinary Least Squares (survey data), multi-level modeling (daily data). and thematic analyses (interview data). Findings will be disseminated via peer-reviewed journals, conferences, and to relevant public agencies. The resulting de-identified data will be appropriately archived. In summary, the proposed study will provide novel insights into mechanisms associated with SA among SMW that are critical for providing these victims of crime with necessary services to address their immediate needs and instigate changes that will improve responses from criminal justice systems, including law enforcement, victim services, and anti-violence programs that serve SMW. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 18, 2014