Reporting Sexual Victimization and Use of Services: An Examination of College Students' Help-seeking Behaviors



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The sexual victimization of college students has garnered widespread attention from scholars, practitioners, and policymakers. Despite the increased focus on this public health concern, questions remain regarding college rape victims’ subsequent help-seeking behaviors. Specifically, the extent of college students’ help-seeking behaviors, the type of service utilized most often, and how barriers to seeking help vary across different service providers warrants further inquiry. The present thesis addresses these gaps in the help-seeking and campus climate literature by answering the following research questions: (1) Do college students disclose their rape victimization? If yes, to whom do they disclose? (2) Do college students seek formal help as a result of their rape victimization? (3) What factors are viewed by victims as barriers to seeking help? Relying on secondary data from a campus climate survey, this thesis will assess 99 college rape victims’ decision to disclose, formal help-seeking, and barriers to seeking help through the use of descriptive statistics and case-by-case analysis. Overall, most college rape victims disclosed to an informal source, like peers or family. Few students sought formal help following their rape victimization, and those who did, likely contacted law enforcement. Lastly, the most prominent barrier to seeking help across service providers involved knowledge/perceptions about that specific source. Theoretical, empirical, and policy implications are discussed, followed by limitations and directions for future research.



Sexual victimization, Rape victimization, Disclosure, Service utilization, Help-seeking, Barriers, Campus climate