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Identifying Sexual Assault Mechanisms among Diverse Women

Hequembourg | Livingston | Collins
In this study, researchers will examine sexual identity differences in the mechanisms associated with sexual assault.

Sexual minority women (i.e., lesbian and bisexual; SMW) have been identified as a group at particularly high risk for experiencing sexual assault, yet our justice system often inadequately responds to their needs. Experiences of bias and stigma contribute to lower rates of sexual assault reporting by this population, resulting in victims with unmet needs and fewer criminal prosecutions of assault perpetrators. However, few empirical studies have systematically examined SMWs' risks for sexual assault, the nature of their assault experiences, and their post-assault experiences. In this study, we use Respondent-Driven Sampling procedures to recruit a community sample of 225 lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women (75 each group; ages 18-35 years old) from the Buffalo, New York region to examine sexual identity differences in the mechanisms associated with sexual assault. Baseline self-administered survey data will allow us to determine sexual identity differences in the relationships among individual-level risk factors (i.e., childhood sexual abuse, perceived discrimination, sexual history, PTSD, substance use and related problems) and adult sexual assault. Data from daily diaries administered via the internet will allow us to determine sexual identity differences in the temporal relationship between sexual assault and various mechanisms that elevate sexual assault risks (e.g., substance use, micro-aggressions, sexual partners). Qualitative, face-to-face interviews will allow for the identification of sexual identity differences in the characteristics of, and mechanisms associated with women's sexual assault experiences, particularly women's resistance strategies; assault consequences; and post-assault disclosure, legal reporting, and informal and formal sources of support. These mixed method results will provide novel insights to develop and implement culturally-sensitive services to better address diverse women’s acute needs at the time of a sexual assault and to improve long-term responses from criminal justice systems, including law enforcement, victim services, and anti-violence programs that serve lesbian and bisexual women. 

Principal Investigator
Amy Hequembourg, PhD
Research Institute on Addictions

Co-Investigators
Jennifer A. Livingston, PhD
Research Institute on Addictions

R. Lorraine Collins, PhD 
Department of Community Health and Health Behavior
University at Buffalo

Funding Agency
National Institute of Justice (NIJ)

Grant Number
VACX-0067

Dates
2015-2017