Numerous research studies suggest that at least one in five female college students is sexually assaulted while enrolled. However, many studies exploring sexual violence prevalence on campus use methodology permitting students to self-select into the study based on interest in the topic (i.e., students receive an email offering them the opportunity to participate in a study on sexual violence). Self-selection may bias these prevalence estimates of campus sexual violence. To explore this issue, we surveyed two samples of college women on their experiences of sexual assault. We recruited Sample 1 in a typical way: by emailing a randomly selected subset of students provided by the university registrar and inviting participation with information about the survey topic. We recruited Sample 2 using a human subjects pool where students in introductory psychology and linguistics courses sign up for studies without prior knowledge about the topic of the research they will participate in (hence greatly minimizing the risk of self-selection). The two samples yielded nearly identical victimization rates. Over a quarter of participants in both our samples had experienced sexual contact without consent, consistent with recent research from the Association of American Universities. College victimization estimates do not appear to be biased by self-selection based on knowledge of the survey topic.
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Rosenthal, Marina N. and Freyd, Jennifer J.
"Sexual Violence on Campus: No Evidence that Studies Are Biased Due to Self-Selection,"
Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence:
1, Article 7.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dignity/vol3/iss1/7