Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: It’s not Just Happening in Hollywood, Rape Myths are Accepted on College Campuses (Sports Med Res)
Monday, November 6, 2017

It’s not Just Happening in Hollywood, Rape Myths are Accepted on College Campuses

National Comparisons of Rape Myth Acceptance Predictors Between Nonathletic and Athletes From Multi-Institutional Settings

Navarro JC, Tewskbury R. 2017; Sexual Abuse. ahead of print.

Take Home Message: Both athletes and nonathletes report accepting some rape myths, and predictors about these rape myths are different for each group.

Rape myths are false beliefs about rape and those involved.  Athletes are commonly cited as perpetrators of sexual violence on college campuses; however, little is known if different demographic lifestyle and characteristics influence rape myth acceptance among athletes and nonathletes. Therefore, the authors surveyed 624 nonathletes and 101 athletes from 21 U.S. Division I institutions (16 different states) using the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale to gauge the level of endorsement of rape myths during the spring 2015 academic term. This survey consisted of 5 sub scales (“She asked for it.” “He didn’t mean to,” “He didn’t mean to, intoxication question,” “It wasn’t really rape”), which was graded on a 5-point Likert scale (1=strongly agree, 5=strongly disagree). Higher scores are associated with stronger rejection of rape myths. The authors also collected demographic information (age, sex, race, grade point average, religion, Greek membership, knowing a sexual assault victim, number of drinks, and type of athletic participation). The nonathlete respondents were mostly white (68%), females (66%), and were more involved in Greek life (18%) compared to athletes (5%). Nonathletes were also more likely to report knowing a rape victim (41% compared to athlete population reporting knowing ~37%).The authors found that athletes and nonathletes were similar in the degree of rape myth acceptance with an Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance score of ~85 and ~82, respectively. However, athletes were more likely to report accepting “She asked for it” based rape myths. Among nonathletes, several factors may influence a person’s overall acceptance of rape myth (e.g., age, gender, GPA, religiosity, knowing a victim). In contrast, knowing a victim of assault and not being a part of Greek life predicted rape myth rejection among athletes.

Intercollegiate athletes endorsed rape myths at a slightly greater level compared with nonathletes. The authors also found that different factors were related with rape-myth acceptance between athletes and nonathletes. Athletes are influenced by events that define their social lifestyle, where demographic characteristics age, sex, race, GPA, religion were predictors for nonathletes. It should be noted that schools were selected based on personal and professional relationships with the criminal justice/criminology and sociology professor at those schools. Therefore, many of the respondents were social science majors, and may have understood these rape myths better than the general college population, and could have biased results. In general, there is still serious misconceptions about rape on these college campuses. Therefore, colleges and universities should consider implementing programs to advocate against these common rape misconceptions, and encourage preventive techniques of sexual victimization. Additionally, medical professionals, coaches, and athletes should encourage community involvement like volunteering to expose their athletes to alternative experiences that may help them understand these rape myths.

Question for Discussion: What programs does your institution have to educate athletes about rape myths? Do you feel athletic trainers should play a role in this education?

Written by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
Reviewed by: Jeff Driban

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