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  • Undergraduate Exposure to Messages About Campus Sexual Assault: Awareness of Campus Resources
  • Sarah McMahon (bio) and Kate Stepleton (bio)

A report released by the Obama Administration’s White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault calls upon colleges and universities to provide resources on campus for students who experience sexual violence (White House, 2014); however, students report a low awareness of services available on their campuses related to sexual violence and are often unsure of how to respond upon hearing a disclosure of sexual violence (Walsh, Banyard, Moynihan, Ward, & Cohn, 2010). It is important for students to know about resources on campus, not only if they themselves experience victimization, but also to help support peers who are more likely to disclose their experiences of sexual violence to each other than to campus resources (Sabina & Ho, 2014). Therefore, how best to equip students with the information and tools to seek assistance for their own victimization or to support their peers who disclose victimization are important issues for consideration in higher education settings (Amar, Strout, Simpson, Cardiello, & Beckford, 2014).

Colleges and universities can provide students with information about sexual violence and campus resources through websites, class discussions, and educational programs. Based on health promotion models and the biomedical model of “dose response,” greater exposure to this information would likely yield better outcomes (M. Taylor et al., 2010). Other fields have demonstrated the positive relationship between level of exposure to prevention messages and positive health outcomes, such as HIV prevention (Sumartojo et al., 2008; M. Taylor et al., 2010) and dating violence education (Foshee et al., 2012; B. G. Taylor, Stein, Mumford, & Woods, 2013). [End Page 110] The idea of exposure to multiple prevention messages is supported by increasing recognition that a multidose, multipronged approach is needed for campus sexual violence (Banyard, 2014). For example, research studies have indicated that a one-shot prevention education program does not sustain positive changes over time, but that continued exposure through booster sessions helps to sustain positive effects (Banyard, Moynihan, & Plante, 2007; Coker et al., 2011). In addition, exposure to different types of programming (e.g., posters and educational sessions) can provide stronger outcomes (Moynihan et al., 2015).

The extant literature has not addressed whether multiple exposures to information and messages about sexual violence affect students’ awareness of resources or impact students’ efficacy in seeking assistance for themselves or a peer who experiences sexual violence. To help address this gap in research and inform colleges and universities in the efforts to address sexual violence, we examined the following research questions: (a) What is the level of sexual victimization in this sample, both self-reported and reported by peers?(b) Does the level of exposure to information and education about sexual violence affect students’ awareness of resources? Does it impact their confidence in knowing how to seek assistance if the student or a peer were sexually victimized?


Data were drawn from an online campus climate survey based on the White House Task Force Tool regarding sexual violence conducted at a large, public university in the Northeast United States in 2014. The university under study provided a comprehensive approach to sexual violence prevention education that included educational programs, trainings, and information posted on the school website and in residence halls. All students were invited to complete the anonymous survey through a broad outreach campaign, and cash prizes were awarded to randomly selected respondents to incentivize participation. All materials and procedures were approved by the university’s Institutional Review Board.

A total of 9,358 undergraduate students responded to the survey for a response rate of 30%. Of those, some cases were removed from the current analysis for incorrect responses to an item included as a reliability check (a question that asked if students were still reading the survey; n = 681), no valid responses (n = 78), software error (n = 4), or age (< 17 or > 24; n = 370), since students ages 18–24 are often cited as most at risk for experiencing campus sexual violence (Black et al., 2011). For this study listwise deletion was employed, yielding a final analytic sample of 6,866 students.

To determine the students’ level of exposure to messages about sexual violence...


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pp. 110-115
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