Unsafe in the Ivory Tower: The Sexual Victimization of College Women

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Bonnie S. Fisher, Leah E. Daigle & Francis T. Cullen

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    Preface

    Unsafe in the Ivory Tower represents the culmination of 15 years of sustained research on the sexual victimization of college women. Leah Daigle joined this collaboration at the mid-point. We entered this field of inquiry expecting to conduct a single project. Alas, we ended up devoting a large portion of our careers to investigating the victimization of college women—a decision we are thankful we made.

    At the inception of this journey, it was readily apparent that sexual victimization was part of a broader culture war being fought on and beyond college campuses. We had ideological leanings, of course, but we concluded that we could best contribute to this debate by setting aside our political views. Our goal was not to find what we wanted but what the data revealed. We trust that our efforts will both provide valuable insights into the study of sexual victimization and inspire others to stand on our shoulders and see much farther than we have seen. We are persuaded that it is through the accumulation of scientific knowledge that it will be possible to unravel the complex sources of sexual victimization and, in turn, to design effective interventions that transform colleges into safer havens for female students.

    Over the past 2 decades, Mary Koss has been at the center of research on sexual victimization—and the object of considerable praise and considerable criticism. When we turned to this area of scholarship, we were moved not by her iconic status in the field but by her use of science to map out the extent and nature of sexual victimization among college students. Koss richly deserved the field's attention because she had used innovative methods to collect national-level data that yielded salient empirical results. We were not troubled by the criticism of her work, though some seemed a touch hyperbolic. After all, a key norm of science is organized skepticism. But in the end, it seemed that Koss's critics and, with a few exceptions, her defenders were merely swapping accusations. The time had come, we concluded, to stop the banter and, instead, to undertake the next nationally representative study capable of advancing our understanding of female students’ sexual victimization. We believed that our backgrounds in survey methodology and in victimology would enable us to conduct a project of some value.

    The most daunting challenge was to figure out how to measure something as complex as sexual victimization. Especially with regard to rape, it is inordinately difficult to capture in a survey format when a sexual advance might have crossed the line from clumsy or bad behavior to a criminal offense. As we explain in detail, we designed a measurement strategy that merged the main advantages of Koss's Sexual Experiences Survey and of the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey. This instrument was then used in a national study of college women that assessed their experiences with sexual victimization. In addition, we conducted three other national-level projects: an earlier survey of crime victimization on campus (with John Sloan); an investigation using National Crime Victimization Survey methodology to assess rape and sexual assault; and an analysis of how colleges responded to sexual victimization (with Heather Karjane).

    Unsafe in the Ivory Tower reports what we have discovered about college women's experiences with sexual victimization. In a way, this is a methodological story—that is, an account of how we tried to use measurement as a means of illuminating a subject that had become embroiled in ideological controversy. More than this, however, Unsafe in the Ivory Tower attempts to paint an accurate portrait of the risks that female students face and how they respond when they are sexually victimized. We do not wish to disclose here the details of our findings; read on to learn what we have uncovered! But as a preview, we can share that college women not only face a modest but meaningful chance of being raped and sexually assaulted but also are at risk of unwanted sexual advances, of verbal and visual harassment, and of being stalked. Sexual victimization thus is an integral part of many female students’ lives—a reality that is often endured in silence or, usually at most, a secret that is disclosed to one's friends. As a result, sexual victimization comprises a hidden inequality of college life—an unpleasant if not disquieting cost that is imposed unwillingly on college women. It is thus incumbent upon college officials to grasp the potential seriousness of sexual victimization and to take steps to make their campuses safe havens for female students.

    We have incurred many debts in bringing Unsafe in the Ivory Tower to press, which we are now happy to acknowledge. In fact, we have learned that “it takes a village” to conduct a series of national studies and then to synthesize their diverse findings under one cover. Our fear is that we have received such wide assistance that we will leave out a supporter who richly deserves notice. Our apologies in advance for those we inadvertently fail to mention. Over the years, we have aged and, although wiser in some respects, we are more forgetful in others. We start by expressing our gratitude to our colleagues in the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati and Georgia State University. Janice Miller and Jean Gary of the University of Cincinnati often dropped what they were doing and, with their typical friendly and supportive style, assisted us in a variety of ways. The Division of Prevention and Community Research at Yale University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice provided an intellectual home for Bonnie Fisher for the 2007–2008 academic year, a crucial time during which the writing of this book was under way.

    As noted, Unsafe in the Ivory Tower is based on several national-level studies that we conducted. These studies were generously funded by the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Bernard Auchter, among others, supplied invaluable guidance in these federally funded investigations. Completing these projects would not have been possible without much support. Joanne Belknap deserves special notice for the integral role she played in the development of our main measure of sexual victimization. Michael Turner merits our appreciation for working closely with us on the primary study and coauthoring writings that inform parts of this book. Others who collaborated or assisted on these projects—and later were often coauthors on publications—include Valerie Bell, Kristie Blevins, Jennifer Hartman, Cheryl Lero Jonson, Heather Karjane, Sharon Levrant, Jamie Newsome, Travis Pratt, Shannon Santana, Kristin Swartz, Megan Stewart, and Brenda Vose. Many colleagues, drawn from different disciplines, gave us invaluable encouragement and concrete help. These include Rosemary Barberet, Michael Benson, Amy Cassidy, Ann Coker, Walter DeKeseredy, George Dowdall, John Eck, Jamie Fargo, Jodi Lane, Chris Krebs, Chris Lindquist, Sandy Martin, Soni Regan, John Sloan, Marti Smith, Lynn Sommers, Tami Sullivan, Brent Teasdale, Sharon Tracy, Tara Warner, Pamela Wilcox, John Wright, John Wozniak, and Therese Zink. Finally, we are indebted to Paul Jonson for providing the wonderful photograph that graces our book's cover. His diligence and artistic talent allowed him to meet the daunting challenge of capturing the sense of being “unsafe in the ivory tower.”

    We thank the more than 8,000 randomly selected college women who participated in each of our national studies. Without your responses to our many survey questions, we would not have had data to answer our research questions. Your experiences coupled with our interests have helped to further the scientific understanding of the sexual victimization of college women. We also thank the hundreds of students at our respective schools who attentively listened to each of us talk endlessly about the sexual victimization of college women. These students provided valuable insight from a new perspective that provided us with much food for thought.

    We must also thank the assistance we have received from the editorial and production staff at SAGE Publications. We extend our deepest gratitude to Jerry Westby. Jerry has shown unwavering support for this enterprise, providing patience and prodding as needed! Without his editorial wisdom and faith in us, this book would not have come to fruition.

    When this project was still in the planning stages, a number of scholars kindly reviewed the prospectus and supplied insightful comments. Along with SAGE Publications, we wish to thank these reviewers:

    Karin Dudash

    Cameron University

    Patricia Harris

    University of Texas at San Antonio

    Lynn C. Jones

    Northern Arizona University

    Robert Lilly

    Northern Kentucky University

    Susan Miller

    University of Delaware

    Damon Mitchell

    Central Connecticut State University

    Karen Terry

    John Jay College of Criminal Justice

    Janet Wilson

    University of Central Arkansas

    Portions of this book were derived from previous reports of our research, as follows: Portions of Chapters 1 and 2 were derived from Bonnie S. Fisher, Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner (1999), The Extent and Nature of Sexual Victimization Among College Women: A National-Level Analysis (Final Report), Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice; Bonnie S. Fisher and Francis T. Cullen (2000), “Measuring the Sexual Victimization of Women: Evolution, Current Controversies, and Future Research,” in David Duffee (Ed.), Criminal Justice 2000 Volumes: Vol. 4—Measurement and Analysis of Crime and Justice (pp. 317–390), Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice; and Bonnie S. Fisher, Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner (2000), The Sexual Victimization of College Women, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    Portions of Chapter 5 were taken from Leah E. Daigle, Bonnie S. Fisher, and Francis T. Cullen (2008), “The Violent and Sexual Victimization of College Women: Is Repeat Victimization a Problem?” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23, 1296–1313; and Leah E. Daigle, Bonnie S. Fisher, and Pamela Guthrie (2007), “The Recurrence of Victimization: What Researchers Know About Its Terminology, Characteristics, and Causes,” in Robert C. Davis, Arthur J. Lurigio, and Susan Herman (Eds.), Victims of Crime (3rd ed., pp. 211–232), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Portions from Chapter 6 were based on findings published in Bonnie S. Fisher, Leah E. Daigle, Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner (2003), “Acknowledging Sexual Victimization as a Rape: Results From a National-Level Study,’ Justice Quarterly, 20, 535–574; and Bonnie S. Fisher, Leah E. Daigle, Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner (2003), “Reporting Sexual Victimization to the Police and Others: Results From a National-Level Study of College Women,” Criminal Justice and Behavior, 30, 6–38.

    Portions of Chapter 7 appear in Bonnie S. Fisher, Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner (2002), “Being Pursued: Stalking Victimization in a National Study of College Women,” Criminology and Public Policy, 1, 257–308; and Bonnie S. Fisher and Megan Stewart (2007), “Vulnerabilities and Opportunities 101: The Extent, Nature, and Impact of Stalking Among College Students and Implications for Campus Policy and Programs,” in Bonnie S. Fisher and John J. Sloan III (Eds.), Campus Crime: Legal, Social, and Policy Perspectives (2nd ed., pp. 210–230), Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.

    A portion of Chapter 8 was drawn from Bonnie S. Fisher, Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner (2002), “Being Pursued: Stalking Victimization in a National Study of College Women,” Criminology and Public Policy, 1, 257–308.

    We gratefully acknowledge the permission of the authors and publishers to use this material in our book.

    Finally, we cherish the opportunity to express our heartfelt appreciation to those closest to us, whose love, support, and good humor inspired our collective efforts to contemplate and then write Unsafe in the Ivory Tower. Thus, this book is dedicated by Bonnie S. Fisher to Nick, Olivia, and Camille Williams, by Leah E. Daigle to Adam, Avery, and Ian Comer, and by Francis T. Cullen to Paula Dubeck and Jordan Cullen.

    BonnieS.Fisher
    LeahE.Daigle
    FrancisT.Cullenc
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    About the Authors

    Bonnie S. Fisher is Professor in the School of Criminal Justice and Research Fellow in the Center for Criminal Justice Research at the University of Cincinnati. Professor Fisher received her Ph.D. (1988) in Political Science from Northwestern University. She is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of sexual, violent, and stalking victimization of college women, including repeat victimization, self-protection effectiveness, and fear of crime, and how postsecondary schools respond to reports of sexual victimization. She has authored more than 150 publications in national and international peer-reviewed criminology, criminal justice, crime prevention, gerontology, legal, medical, methodological, nursing, urban planning, public administration, psychology, security, and victimology periodicals. She also has edited several volumes that focus on victimization issues, including Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention (with Steven P. Lab), Campus Crime, Legal, Social and Political Perspectives, 2nd edition (with John Sloan III), Violence Against Women and Family Violence, and Developments in Research, Practice, and Policy. She has been the coeditor of the Security Journal since 1998. She has served as the Deputy Editor of Justice Quarterly and since 2008 has been the Associate Editor of the Journal of Research Crime and Delinquency. She has been the Principal Investigator or Co-PI on several U.S. Department of Justice grants examining a range of college student victimization issues and on a grant from the British Home Office to examine college student victimization in the East Midlands, United Kingdom. Currently she is a Co-PI on a National Institute of Health grant examining forensic sexual examinations and the use of digital images and staining techniques to enhance the detection of injuries and the use of digital images in decision making among the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and juries in the criminal justice process.

    Leah E. Daigle is Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Georgia State University. She received her Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati in 2005. Her most recent research has centered on repeat sexual victimization of college women and the responses that women use during and after being sexually victimized. Her other research interests include the development and continuation of offending over time and gender differences in the antecedents to and consequences of criminal victimization and participation across the life course. She is coauthor of Criminals in the Making: Criminality Across the Life Course and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles that have appeared in Justice Quarterly, Journal ofQuantitative Criminology, Victims and Offenders, and the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

    Francis T. Cullen is Distinguished Research Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati, where he also holds a joint appointment in sociology. He received his Ph.D. (1979) in Sociology and Education from Columbia University. Professor Cullen has published more than 200 works in the areas of criminological theory, corrections, white-collar crime, public opinion, and the measurement of sexual victimization. He is author of Rethinking Crime and Deviance Theory: The Emergence of a Structuring Tradition and is coauthor of Reaffirming Rehabilitation, Corporate Crime Under Attack: The Ford Pinto Case and Beyond, Criminological Theory: Context and Consequences, Criminology, and Combating Corporate Crime: Local Prosecutors at Work. He also has coedited Contemporary Criminological Theory, Offender Rehabilitation: Effective Correctional Intervention, Criminological Theory: Past to Present—Essential Readings, Taking Stock: The Status of Criminological Theory, The Origins of American Criminology, and the Encyclopedia of Criminological Theory. He is past president of the American Society of Criminology and of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Previously, he served as editor of Justice Quarterly and of the Journal of Crime and Justice. He has been honored as a Fellow of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) and of the American Society of Criminology, as the Outstanding Educator by the Ohio Council of Criminal Justice Educators, and with ACJS's Bruce Smith Award and Founder's Award.


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