Who Counts What as Sexual Coercion? Demographic Variation in Perceptions of Sexual Victimization
Department:Center for the Study of Democratic Politics
Audience:Restricted to Princeton University
PRESS workshops are co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics (CSDP), Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, and the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance
PRESS (Princeton Research in Experimental Social Science) Research Workshop
Celeste Marin (Office of Population Research) and Rebecca Johnson (Sociology and Office of Population Research)
Open to all Princeton students, faculty, and fellows working on experimental research design in the social sciences
How can researchers measure the population prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual victimization? This question has become increasingly important as policymakers and researchers seek to compare the prevalence of sexual victimization between populations. For instance, data from Title IX complaints about sexual victimization submitted to the Department of Education Office show significantly higher rates of complaints at more selective universities (Reynolds, 2016), raising questions about whether these different rates reflect a higher prevalence of victimization among higher-SES student populations or whether the different rates reflect differences in three steps that lead to a complaint: perceptions that victimization has occurred, the choice to pursue any redress, and choosing a formal complaint over informal forms of redress. The study we propose focuses on potential socioeconomic variation in step one of this process: perceptions that a given situation counts as sexual victimization. Using online-based vignettes that systematically vary different features of a situation—the type of relationship between the potential victim and perpetrator; the type of tactic used (e.g., verbal pressure; threat of economic harm; physical force); the setting—the study will investigate three questions: 1) How do demographic sub-groups vary on binary yes or no responses to whether the act is labeled as sexual assault according to widely-used victimization survey wording that asks whether an act was forced or coerced? 2) How do demographic subgroups vary on the cut-point used to translate a latent continuum–the degree to which a tactic undermines consent–into the binary response in (1)? 3) How do the different dimensions of the interaction discussed above (type of threat; relationship between parties) affect (1) and (2)?