School for Social Work
Rape-Psychological aspects, Communication-Sex differences, College students, Sexual assault, Gender, Communication
Sexual assault is a pervasive problem that many college women face. This study explores the gendered communication patterns employed by men and women prior to, during, and after instances of heterosexual sexual assault on New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) college campuses. It was hypothesized that gender plays a role in instances of sexual assault in that norms of masculinity and femininity influence the communication employed by men and women, with women's voices being silenced, muted, and ignored and men's voices being assertive and dominant. Nine mental health and sexual assault professionals, from eight different colleges, were interviewed to discuss the communication patterns they have observed in working with survivors and perpetrators. The results of this study indicate that communication patterns are gendered in that women's voices are muted and ignored during and after the assault, and their voices are silenced after the assault. The communication patterns of men appear to be either controlling in that they knowingly commit assaults, or unclear in that the perpetrators report acting on miscommunication. Most assaults occur after social situations of partying and substance use. This study demonstrates that internalized notions of masculinity and femininity play a role in sexual assault.
Curtis, Carolyn A., "Breaking the silence : uncovering the gendered communication patterns before, during, and after instances of sexual assault at NESCAC colleges" (2012). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.