Sexual Violence Among Gender and Sexual Minority College Students: The Risk and Extent of Victimization and Related Health and Educational Outcomes
A multisite survey conducted at eight campuses of a southwestern university system provides the data for the present study, total N = 17,039 with 1,869 gender and sexual minority (GSM) students. Sexual violence was measured using the Sexual Experiences Survey (SES), and analysis included both the participant’s risk of experiencing sexual violence and the extent (or total count) of sexual violence experienced. This study poses the following research questions: What effects do gender identity and sexual orientation have on the risk and extent of sexual violence among students and, among victims, what is the relationship between gender identity/sexual orientation and mental health (posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], depression) and academic environment (disengagement and safety) outcomes for university students? Multilevel, random effect hurdle models captured this sequential victimization dynamic. GSM and cisgender heterosexual (CH) female students are predicted to be 2.6 and 3 times, respectively, as likely to experience sexual violence compared with CH male students. In addition, GSM students experiencing sexual violence are also expected to experience a greater number of sexually violent acts (74% more) over their college career compared with victimized CH male students. The models confirm that the risk of victimization increases over time (13% per year for CH male students), but GSM students are expected to experience an additional (10%) increase in risk of victimization per year compared with CH male students. GSM and CH female students are also predicted to be more likely to have PTSD and experience more severe depression symptoms than CH male students. GSM students are expected to experience significantly higher rates of PTSD, worse depressive symptoms, and greater disengagement than CH female students. The discussion explores how institutions of higher education might recognize the resilience of GSM students and consider the protective potential of social and community support when developing programs or interventions for diverse populations.