Sexual Assault, Sexual Orientation, and Reporting Among College Students

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Research has demonstrated significantly higher rates of sexual assault victimization among lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer (LGBQ) students than heterosexual students, and the overwhelming majority of assaults are not reported to any official system. Given the potential for support services to provide valuable assistance and promote well-being after an assault, the present study explores whether LGBQ students report assaults at similar rates to heterosexual students. As part of the 2015 College Student Health Survey, 10,646 male and female college students at 2- and 4-year colleges in Minnesota provided data regarding sexual assault victimization; reporting to a health care provider, campus authority, police, or social contact; and sexual orientation (two items, including write-in). Chi-square tests were used to detect associations between sexual assault victimization and five sexual orientation groups; and between sexual orientation and assault reporting (for 523 assault incidents). Almost 6% of students reported that they had experienced sexual assault in the previous 12 months. Significant differences in assault experience were seen by sexual orientation groups, for both males and females. For example, rates of sexual assault were 2.5 to over 5 times higher among bisexual and queer/pansexual/other females than among heterosexual females. Reporting of sexual assault to health care providers, campus authorities or police was rare for both heterosexual and sexual minority students, and there were no significant differences in reporting across sexual orientation. LGBQ students and heterosexual students appear to be similarly comfortable accessing health care providers, police, and campus resources, suggesting that these services are not overtly biased or unwelcoming to sexual minorities. However, rates of sexual assault were considerably higher among sexual minority groups, suggesting a need for primary prevention that is appropriate and sensitive to the experiences of LGBQ students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-82
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Aug 21 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under Grant R40MC29445 awarded to principal investigator Carolyn Porta, titled “Sexual assault among college students: New insights for prevention” (co-investigators on this study include Lust, Mathiason, Eisenberg). The information, content, and/or conclusions are those of the authors and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 SAGE Publications.


  • college health
  • sexual assault
  • sexual orientation


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