Half Of Male College Athletes Admit History Of ‘Sexually Coercive’ Behavior Such As Sexual Assault, Rape

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A new study published in the journal Violence Against Women may provide a revealing look into the disturbing reality of sexual violence seen on college campuses.

The researchers conducted an online survey of 379 male undergraduate college students under the age of 23 enrolled at an unnamed public university within the southeastern United States. Roughly half were either intercollegiate athletes who officially represented their school or regularly participated in recreational sports. The other half were nonathletes similarly matched by age and other demographic factors. The students answered a variety of questions about their history of sexually inappropriate behaviors as well as their beliefs concerning traditional gender roles and the nature of sexual assault.

A startling 54 percent of the student-athletes admitted to committing at least one “sexually coercive” act in their lifetimes, such as making their partner have sex without a condom or using physical force or threats to commit rape. Nonathletes fared better, but 38 percent still admitted the same. Athletes were also more likely to endorse negative attitudes toward women and believe common myths about rape than their nonathletic counterparts. The researchers argue that these differences in beliefs account for the greater rates of sexual coercion seen in the athletes.

“Sexual assault on campuses — and in society more generally — is a serious problem that needs to be addressed,” study author Dr. Sarah Desmarais, a psychologist at North Carolina State University, told Medical Daily. “We wanted to look at factors that might be contributing to higher rates of sexual assault among athletes so that we could identify things that prevention programs could try to address, such as attitudes about women and beliefs about rape.”

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