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Journal Article


Cranney S. J. Interpers. Violence 2015; 30(17): 3133-3145.


University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA


(Copyright © 2015, SAGE Publishing)






It is the conventional wisdom among some universities that the highest risk of sexual assault is in the first or possibly second year in school. While initially belief in this pattern was primarily based on anecdote, recently some attempts have been made to more systematically and quantitatively test the existence of a "red zone," a time of heightened risk of sexual assault sometime near the beginning of a female student's time at the college. However, most of these studies have been conducted with relatively small convenience samples from single schools and have had conflicting results. Here, I test the red zone hypothesis using self-reported sexual victimization data with a large sample (~16,000) drawn from 22 schools as part of the Online College Social Life Survey. To investigate the specific mechanisms responsible for the red zone, I separately test for the existence of a red zone for four different types of sexual victimizations: physically forced intercourse, attempted forced intercourse, unwanted intercourse when incapacitated, and unwanted intercourse due to verbal pressure. Within these categories, I separately address sexual victimization that occurred while hanging out and sexual victimization during a party. Prior literature has emphasized the role of parties in the increased risk of assault for freshman. While I find some evidence for this in the higher estimates for sexual victimization at a party, the freshman effect remains for other types of sexual victimizations, suggesting that the red zone is not easily attributable to a single mechanistic cause, but to more generalizable factors. With one exception, I find that the red zone does not extend into the sophomore year.

Language: en


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