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#MeToo for Whom? Sexual Assault Disclosures Before and After #MeToo

Abstract

In October 2017, #MeToo became a global hashtag for victims of sexual assault and harassment. In this study, we examine the extent of unwanted sexual experiences and disclosure, as well as perceptions of #MeToo, to assess differences among students who were represented and underrepresented in #MeToo coverage. Using a stratified random sample of students at a private university in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., we analyzed data from cross-sectional surveys conducted in March 2017 (n = 1722) and March 2019 (n = 1503). Results suggest that, relative to White students, in 2019 compared to 2017, there was an increase in disclosures among Black students and a decrease among Multiracial students. There was also an increase in undergraduate students who indicated ever experiencing unwanted sexual activity in 2019. Students who believed #MeToo affected how they think about past experiences were more likely to have indicated past experiences with unwanted sexual activity. Results also suggest that cisgender women, LGBQ, white, and multiracial students are at increased risk of unwanted sexual activity. However, Asian students, cisgender men, and non-LGBQ students may be less likely to disclose unwanted sexual activity. Implications for evaluating long-term impacts of #MeToo are discussed, along with suggestions for future research.

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Notes

  1. Milano’s #MeToo tweet was in October of 2017, about six months after the Spring 2017 survey. Unfortunately, due to survey question response item wording, we could either assess past year or 1 to 3 years ago. Therefore we opted to include past year estimates, since MeToo’s start was approximately 1 1/2 years before to the Spring 2019 survey.

  2. We expected a 50–60% response rate due to historical response rates for previous iterations of this survey. We were pleased with our 48–70% response rates. According to a recent systematic review of campus climate surveys (Krause et al. 2019), “the most common response rate was between 10 and 19%, with 80% of survey reports garnering less than a 50% response rate” (p.615). The 2016 Campus Climate Survey Validation Study (Krebs et al. 2016), which had a lot of the same features of this study, had an average response rate of 47% (54% for females and 40% for males), with a range of 43% - 71%. This exceeded their expected 35–40% response rate. The Rutgers University campus climate survey (Seabrook, Cusano, O’Connor, & McMahon, 2018), which is highly respected, had a response rate of 14.2%.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 7 Appendix Logistic Regression Models with Interactions (Experienced Unwanted Sexual Activity in the Past Year)
Table 8 Logistic Regression Models with Interactions (Ever Experienced Unwanted Sexual Activity)
Table 9 Logistic Regression Models with Interactions (Disclosed Unwanted Sexual Activity in the Past Year)

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Palmer, J.E., Fissel, E.R., Hoxmeier, J. et al. #MeToo for Whom? Sexual Assault Disclosures Before and After #MeToo. Am J Crim Just 46, 68–106 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-020-09588-4

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Keywords

  • Help-seeking
  • Social movements
  • Measurement
  • Campus climate surveys
  • Sexual violence