Sexual Assault Response Systems in an Evolving Legal Landscape: Implications for Reporting and Help-Seeking

Show simple item record Holland, Kathryn 2017-10-05T20:26:15Z NO_RESTRICTION 2017-10-05T20:26:15Z 2017 2017
dc.description.abstract Three decades of research illustrate that sexual assault is a persistent and pernicious problem on college campuses, with women at greatest risk. Recent changes in federal law and oversight have brought substantial change in university sexual assault response systems. For instance, in a 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, the Department of Education enhanced Title IX guidance on sexual assault, instructing universities to institute policies and reporting procedures that will address reports of sexual assault and make resources available to survivors. Under this evolving legal landscape, universities nationwide have overhauled their sexual assault policies, reporting procedures, and resources. There is a pressing need for empirical evaluation of these response systems: Do policies, procedures, and resources work as they are intended? How do they affect the campus community—including employees who are expected to enact policies (e.g., “Responsible Employees” mandated to report sexual assault disclosures to the university) and students who are expected to benefit? Three studies addressed these larger questions. Study One collected survey data from 305 resident assistants (RAs)—who are Responsible Employees—and investigated factors that predicted RAs’ likelihood to enact their mandate to report sexual assault disclosures to the university and refer survivors to sexual assault resources. Results suggested that RAs’ perceptions of their mandatory reporting role was particularly important: RAs who felt negatively about mandatory reporting were less likely to report disclosures and refer survivors to resources. Study Two used a mixed methodological approach to examine reasons that 284 college sexual assault survivors did not use three key campus supports—Title IX Office, sexual assault center (SAC), and housing staff—and if these reasons differed across the three supports. Qualitative analyses identified four overarching themes: logistical issues (e.g., lacking knowledge), feelings, beliefs, and responses that made it seem unacceptable to use a support (e.g., anticipating negative consequences), judgments about the appropriateness of a support (e.g., lacking familiarity or confidentiality), and alternative methods of coping (e.g., disclosing to informal supports). Some quantitative findings suggested that survivors faced the most barriers for the Title IX Office (e.g., fearing consequences, questioning if the assault was serious enough to report), lacked knowledge about the SAC, and believed housing staff were an inappropriate support (e.g., because they are reporters). Perceiving the assault to be insufficiently severe was the most frequent reason mentioned; these findings suggest that the ubiquitous nature of sexual assault in college hinders help seeking. Study Three analyzed a stratified random sample of 150 university mandatory reporting policies to determine how institutions have interpreted and implemented federal law and guidance around mandatory reporting. The majority of institutions adopted policies that require most, if not all, employees to report any sexual assault disclosure to the university. Then, a review of the literature suggests these expansive policies have been implemented despite limited evidence regarding their effectiveness. In fact, some findings suggest negative consequences for survivors, employees, and institutions (e.g., making it harder for survivors to disclose). Collectively, these studies elucidate some effects of changes in the interpretation and implementation of federal law and guidance addressing campus sexual assault and demonstrate the need for more empirically informed policies and practices. However, without substantial change in community norms around sexual assault, these efforts may be for naught. Ongoing evaluation of university sexual assault response systems must be coupled with efforts to change the cultural context.
dc.language.iso en_US
dc.subject Sexual Assault
dc.subject Title IX
dc.subject Support Systems
dc.subject Mandatory Reporting
dc.subject College Students
dc.subject Resident Assistants
dc.title Sexual Assault Response Systems in an Evolving Legal Landscape: Implications for Reporting and Help-Seeking
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreename PHD
dc.description.thesisdegreediscipline Psychology and Women's Studies
dc.description.thesisdegreegrantor University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies
dc.contributor.committeemember Cortina, Lilia M
dc.contributor.committeemember McClelland, Sara Isobel
dc.contributor.committeemember Stewart, Abigail J
dc.contributor.committeemember Ward, Lucretia M
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel Psychology
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel Women's and Gender Studies
dc.subject.hlbtoplevel Social Sciences
dc.identifier.orcid 0000-0001-8340-4702 Holland, Kathryn; 0000-0001-8340-4702 en_US
dc.owningcollname Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D. and Master's)
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