A new study suggests that queer students who attend LGBTQ-friendly campuses are significantly less likely to be sexually assaulted.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health looked at survey data collected in 2010 from 1,925 LGBTQ undergraduate students in all 50 states. In total, 5.2% of respondents said they had been sexually assaulted on campus.
But pro-LGBTQ environments brought the risk down by a significant margin. Students who reported that their campuses were welcoming to queer students reported a sexual assault rate 27% lower than students who attended colleges that were not LGBTQ-friendly.
“I believe this study provides proof of concept for how environment may influence sexual assault violence,” researcher Robert Coulter told Reuters. “I think designing interventions to reduce sexual assault victimization for LGBT people is important.”
The pro-LGBTQ campuses might not have programs specifically designed to prevent violence against queer students, but their inclusive social attitudes obviously are making a difference.
It could be because queer students who are victimized on these campuses feel more empowered to seek help. Would-be attackers, knowing they might actually suffer consequences for hurting others, choose not to act out. Plus, sexual assault is a form a violence. Maybe having an LGBTQ-friendly campus environment reduces violence against queer students overall.
LGBTQ people face higher rates of sexual violence than the rest of the population, both off and on campus. A study by the Association of American Universities found that 60.4 percent of gay and lesbian college students report being sexually harassed compared to 45.9 percent of heterosexuals. The study also found that 25.3% of bisexual students experienced nonconsensual sexual contact involving physical force or incapacitation, compared to 13.7% of gays or lesbians and 10.8% of heterosexual students. Social stigma and perceived vulnerability make the LGBTQ population a target for assault. An inclusive, welcoming campus culture can reduce these factors.