A longitudinal perspective on women’s risk perceptions for sexual assault

  • Jacquelyn W. White
  • Paige H. Smith
  • John A. Humphrey


Much effort has been directed toward developing effective rape prevention programs. Genuine prevention programs must be directed toward men; programs directed toward women are really deterrence programs.1 However, until effective programs for men are developed, there is a continuing need to fmd strategies for empowering women to reduce their chances of victimization. Recent research has begun to address the question of how women recognize cues associated with the risk of an assault. One aspect of this work has been a focus on cognitive processes related to risk perception2. However, unless a woman believes that she is at risk it is unlikely that she will engage in vigilance strategies that alert her to danger cues in a particular situation. Many sexual assaults are committed by acquaintances, often in contexts where women’s past experiences indicate they are in safe situations, i.e., dates Thus, the present study examines women’s general belief that they are at risk for sexual assault, premised on the assumption that if they do not believe they are at risk they will not engage in risk-reducing behaviors.


Sexual Assault Risk Perception Sexual Victimization Sexual Aggression Future Victimization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Lonsway, K. A., 1996, Preventing acquaintance rape through education: What do we know? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 229 - 265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Norris, J., Nurius, P. S., and Dimeff, L. A., 1996, Through her eyes: Factors affecting women’s perception of and resistance to acquaintance sexual aggression threat. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 123 - 145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Furby, L., Fischhoff, B., and Morgan, M., 1992, “Preventing rape: How people perceive the options of defending oneself during an assault” In Critical issues in victimology: International perspectives E. C. Viano, ed. Springer Publishing Co, Inc, New York, NY, USA, 174-189.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hickman, S. E., and Muehlenhard, C. L., 1997, College women’s fears and precautionary behaviors relating to acquaintance rape and stranger rape. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21: 527 - 547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Koss, M. P. Dinero, T. E. Seibel, C. A. and Cox, S. L., 1988, Stranger and acquaintance rape: Are there differences in the victim’s experience? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 12: 1 - 24.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Weinstein, N. D., 1989, Perceptions of personal susceptibility to harm. In Primary prevention of AIDS: Psychological approaches V. M. Mays, G. W. Albee, and S. F. Schneider, eds. Sage Publications, Inc, Newbury Park, CA, 142 - 167.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Weinstein, N. D., 1987, Unrealistic optimism about susceptibility to health problems: Conclusions from a community-wide sample. Journal of Behavioral Medicine,10: 481-500.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    White, J. W. and Humphrey, J. A., 1997, Vulnerability for sexual assault during adolescence. Presented at symposium on Factors related to sexual victimization and revictimization in women. American Psychological Association, August 19.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    White, J. W., and Humphrey, JA., 1998, Alcohol use in reports of sexual assault during adolescence and the collegiate years. Paper present at symposium on the Role of Alcohol in Sexual Assault at the X III World Meetings of the International Society for Research on Aggression, Mahwah, NJ, USA, July.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Koss, M. P., Gidycz, C, and Wisniewski, N., 1987, The scope of rape: Incidence and prevalence of sexual aggression and victimization in a national sample of higher education students. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55: 162 - 170.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Norris, J., Nurius, P. S., and Graham, T. L., 1999, When a date changes from fun to dangerous: Factors affecting women’s ability to distinguish. Violence Against Women, 5: 230 - 250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacquelyn W. White
    • 1
  • Paige H. Smith
    • 2
  • John A. Humphrey
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North Carolina at GreensboroUSA
  2. 2.Department of Public Health EducationUniversity of North Carolina at GreensboroUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of North Carolina at GreensboroUSA

Personalised recommendations