Studying Risk Factors for Female Victimization on Texas College Campuses

Report cover for Risk Factors Associated with Women’s Victimization featuring distraught woman.

According to recent research, 15 to 30 percent of women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college careers. Similarly, property crime and personal victimization remains a concern on college campuses.

To highlight prevention, the Crime Victims’ Institute recently released findings from a study that investigated the impact of students’ daily routine activities and levels of self-control on personal, property crime, and sexual assault victimization.

The study, entitled “Risk Factors Associated with Women’s Victimization,” provides important implications for crime prevention strategies on Texas college campuses. It was authored by Drs. Cortney A. Franklin, Travis A. Franklin, Matt R. Nobles, and Glen Kercher of Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice.

Important findings presented in the study include:

  • Lower levels of individual self-control were associated with increases in overall victimization for the college women who participated in the study.
  • The risk of property crime victimization increased when women spent more time shopping and partying.
  • Living off campus, participating in drug sales, and being in their early years of college increased property crime victimization risk among these university women.
  • Personal victimization was related to living off campus and participating in drug sales behavior.
  • The risk of sexual assault victimization increased with time spent on campus and time spent partying.

“Any study of victimization must acknowledge that offenders are, first and foremost, responsible for the behavioral choices they make that negatively impact others. To empower victims, however, findings from this study reiterate the value of prudent behavioral choices, in-school residence options, and target hardening strategies employed to guard against threats to property and personal safety,” said Dr. Cortney Franklin, the lead researcher. “The goal of this study is not to hold would-be victims accountable for their own victimization, though it is instructive to consider the impact of lifestyle variables and how situational and individual constructs can strengthen property, personal, and sexual security.”

The study was conducted using 2,233 online surveys completed by women enrolled at 8 randomly-selected, public universities in Texas. The average age of the respondents was 22.59 years old. The study focused on property crime victimization (larceny, burglary, vandalism, motor vehicle theft and theft), personal victimization (face-to-face crimes and violent crime but excluding sexual assault), and sexual assault (including oral, vaginal, anal or other types of violation that are of a sexual nature).

The authors concluded that self-control deficits remain a useful construct in understanding behaviors that precede property crime, personal, and sexual assault victimization. Lower levels of self-control may influence an individual’s participation in high-risk behaviors, such as the heavy drinking that occurs frequently on college campuses. Additionally, routine patterns of public behavior like nighttime social activities, frequent partying and, in the case of rape, regular daytime campus involvement were also shown to influence victimization risk.

Additionally, participating in drug sales behavior significantly enhanced risk across all three victimization types cementing the importance of selecting prosocial friends and limiting associations with potential offenders.

The Crime Victims’ Institute, located at Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice, was created by the Texas Legislature in 1995 to study the impact of crime on victims, their relatives and society as a whole. Research sponsored by CVI evaluates the effectiveness of criminal justice and juvenile justice policy, and develops recommendations to prevent future criminal victimization in society. Findings are also routinely presented to news media, victim service providers, legislators, judges and police officers.

Member of The Texas State University System