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Unacknowledged and missed cases of sexual victimization: A comparison of responses to broad versus behaviorally specific questions

Published onJul 10, 2022
Unacknowledged and missed cases of sexual victimization: A comparison of responses to broad versus behaviorally specific questions
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Unacknowledged and missed cases of sexual victimization: A comparison of responses to broad versus behaviorally specific questions
Description

From the beginning of systematic research on sexual victimization, it has been recognized that a substantial proportion of women report nonconsensual sexual experiences meeting the defining criteria of rape in response to behaviorally specific items, but do not acknowledge their experience as rape in response to broad questions about whether they have ever been raped. Recent studies suggest that rates of unacknowledged rape may be as high or even higher among men than among women. This study examined rates of unacknowledged female and male victims of rape and sexual assault by comparing responses to behaviorally specific items of the Sexual Aggression and Victimization Scale (SAV-S) with responses to broad questions using the labels of sexual assault and rape (SARA) in 593 participants (303 women) in Germany. As predicted, more women and men were classified as rape victims based on behaviorally specific items than on the basis of the broad rape item. The rates of unacknowledged rape were about 60% for women and 75% for men. The gender difference was not significant. Against our prediction, no significant differences in acknowledgement of sexual assault were found in relation to coercive strategy and victim–perpetrator relationship. Few cases of rape and sexual assault identified by the SARA items were missed by the behaviorally specific questions. The implications for establishing prevalence rates of rape and sexual assault and for comparing victims and nonvictims in terms of vulnerability factors and outcomes of sexual victimization are discussed.

 

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