Sexual assault on college campuses: Rape myth acceptance, feminine gender norms, benevolent sexism, and effects of depression and hopelessness



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Sexual violence is an important public health concern for women as the Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 5 women have been raped and 1 in 20 women have experienced some type of sexual assault at some point in their life (Black et al, 2011). Sexual violence is particularly a concern for college aged women as approximately 37.4% of women who reported a past rape experience indicated that they were first raped between the ages of 18 to 24 (Basile, Smith, Breiding, Black, & Mahendra, 2014). When women who have been raped endorsed attitudes consistent with rape myths they were more likely to blame themselves for the assault (Breitenbecher, 2006). Past studies have also found that holding benevolent sexist attitudes (Duran, Moya, Megias, 2011) and adhering to feminine gender norms (Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1995) may influence individuals attitudes about rape. Sexual violence is an important mental health concern because women who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to experience psychological distress including depression (Chang et al, 2015) and feelings of hopelessness (Clements & Sawhney, 2000) compared to women who have not been assaulted. The present study examined factors that impact mental health outcomes in college women (i.e., depression and hopelessness) following a sexual assault. It was determined that women who expressed more acceptance of rape myths endorsed fewer feelings of hopelessness. Recommendations for future studies were made, and theoretical implications of these results were considered.



Sexual assault, Rape, Femininity, Benevolent sexism, Depression