The role of social norms and rape culture in reporting sexual assault on college campuses

  • Raygn Denton


The prevalence of sexual assault against women is astoundingly high on college campuses, with estimates as high as 1 in 4 females (Hines, Armstrong, & Reed, 2012). Women on college campuses are less likely to make a formal report to the authorities after sexual assault than women off-campus (Orchowski & Gidycz, 2012). Less than 5% of sexual assaults on college campuses are reported to the police (Rubenfeld, 2014, as cited in Schwarz, Gibson, & Lewis-Arévalo, 2017). More often, occurrences of sexual assault on college campuses are informally reported, such as with a peer or family member (Fisher, Daigle, & Cullen, 2003; Foubert, Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Brasfield, & Hill, 2010, as cited in Schwarz et al., 2017). Between one-fourth and three-fourths of women who reported sexual assault were responded to negatively (Campbell et al., 1999; Campbell & Raja, 1999; Campbell, Wasco, Ahrens, Sefl, & Barnes, 200, as cited in Orchowski & Gidycz, 2012). Sexual assault is an intimate violation and can therefore be even more damaging than some other traumas (Allison & Wrightsman, 1993, as cited in Paul, Gray, Elhai, & Davis, 2009). When a victim discloses sexual assault and receives a negative response, it can be considered a second injury to the victim (Symonds, 1980, as cited in Orchowski & Gidycz, 2012). The purpose of this literature review is to explore the role of social norms and rape culture in the underreporting and the response to sexual assault on college campuses.

Human Ecology