Exploring Black Undergraduate College Women's Experiences with Sexual Misconduct: Knowledge of Resources, Barriers to Access, and Strategies to Improve Engagement and Outcomes



In the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey, 26.9% of undergraduate women (UW) reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact since entering college. Avoidance behaviors (reported by 75.9% of affected women), loss of interest or feeling helpless (reported by 51.4% of affected women), and feeling numb or detached (reported by 48.8% of affected women) were the three most common responses to such experiences. Among UW who experienced nonconsensual sexual contact involving penetration, less than a third (30.5%) contacted a campus program/resource because of the experience, with 46.8% stating they felt they could handle it themselves and the same percentage stating the incident was not serious enough. A similar pattern emerges for those who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV), with 76.9% of UW stating that they did not seek out campus resources/programs to address these experiences, with the most frequently cited reasons being that they felt they could handle it themselves (56.2%) or not feeling that the situation was serious enough (43.2%).1

Additionally, many students have had experiences of sexual violence (SV) and IPV prior to even starting college. In our previous work with approximately 2300 college students seeking campus health and counseling services at one of 28 campuses across Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, we found that roughly 50% of those students reported experiencing SV or IPV victimization before starting college.2 Coupled with the results from the AAU survey, our findings point to an urgent need to ensure that all students are aware of campus resources/programs for SV and IPV victimization and that they feel comfortable accessing these services. Such services must be relevant to and supportive of the needs of diverse student populations.

Data from the AAU survey noted that 23.5% of Black UW compared to 16.5% of White UW reported experiencing IPV and 14.8% of Black UW compared to 11.9% of White UW reported experiencing stalking.1 Black UW may face the added burden of sexist (e.g., she was asking for it) and racist (e.g., Black women are domineering) beliefs (whether internalized or expressed by others) that could make seeking assistance from campus programs/resources for sexual misconduct victimization even more challenging. To better understand the unique needs of and challenges faced by Black UW who experience sexual misconduct victimization at the University of Pittsburgh, we plan to conduct a series of listening sessions with small groups of Black UW, meet with leaders of Black student campus organizations, and survey staff from the services/resources listed in Table 2.1 of the AAU Survey. Information gathered from these three categories of informants will be used to offer recommendations to improve existing services and develop new strategies to reduce cases of sexual misconduct victimization experienced by Black UW.


1. Cantor D, Fisher B, Chibnall, S, et al. Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct: The University of Pittsburgh. Westat: 2019. https://www.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/University%20of%20Pittsburgh%20...

2. Miller, E, Jones, KA, McCauley HL, et al. Cluster-Randomized Trial of a College Health Center Sexual Violence Intervention. AJPM. Under Review.

Principal Investigator 

Lynissa Stokes 

Select Collaborators 

Ashley Hill 
Team Member 

Elizabeth Miller 
Team Member 


Goal Area