Minorities at Risk of Sexual Assault; Inclusion Lowers Risk

College students walking to classGender and sexual minorities are significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted in college, according to a study published in the journal Prevention Science. A complementary study published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence, however, suggests more inclusive and diverse campuses may lower the risk of sexual violence.

Higher Sexual Assault Risk Among Minorities

The study published in Prevention Science surveyed more than 70,000 college students at 120 college campuses. Findings showed transgender and nonheterosexual students were significantly more likely to experience sexual assault, with an even greater risk for black sexual and gender minorities.

Overall, transgender students had a 300% higher risk of sexual assault than cisgender men. Black transgender students faced the highest risk of sexual assault.

Gay and bisexual men were more likely than heterosexual men to be assaulted. Bisexual women were more vulnerable to sexual assault than heterosexual women. In each group, black students were more vulnerable to sexual assault than white students.

Other research points to the role of race in sexual assault victimization. A 2017 study found white women may be less likely to intervene when they witness black women at risk of sexual assault.

Diversity and Inclusion as Sexual Assault Prevention Strategies

For the Journal of Interpersonal Violence study, researchers surveyed 1,925 gender and sexual minority students at 50 U.S. college campuses. Overall, 5.2% reported being sexually assaulted at school.

Researchers controlled for other factors linked to sexual assault, including sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, gender identity, and year in school. They found students who felt their schools were more inclusive of gender and sexual minorities were 27% less likely to experience sexual assault.

These findings suggest promoting an inclusive and diverse campus may help reduce rates of sexual assault. Students may be more likely to intervene when schools promote an inclusive climate. The study’s authors suggest sexual assault prevention programs should embrace inclusivity and address the needs of minority populations.

Many sexual assault prevention programs focus solely on heterosexual violence and assault. Robert Coulter, the lead author of both studies, suggests this focus can invalidate the sexual assault experiences of gender and sexual minorities. To make sure prevention strategies are effective for all groups, Coulter suggests programs should explicitly address racism, homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia, and new prevention programs should focus on minority groups.


  1. Coulter, R. W., Mair, C., Miller, E., Blosnich, J. R., Matthews, D. D., & Mccauley, H. L. (2017). Prevalence of past-year sexual assault victimization among undergraduate students: Exploring differences by and intersections of gender identity, sexual identity, and race/ethnicity. Prevention Science. doi:10.1007/s11121-017-0762-8
  2. Coulter, R. W., & Rankin, S. R. (2017). College sexual assault and campus climate for sexual- and gender-minority undergraduate students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. doi:10.1177/0886260517696870
  3. Inclusive campus climates may lower sexual assault risk. (2017, March 17). Retrieved from http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/03/prweb14158327.htm

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  • Antoine


    April 7th, 2017 at 10:07 AM

    As a black openly gay male I can tell you that there is discrimination everywhere that I go, and I do fear that one day that discrimination is going to turn into something much more harmful even than that. I would like to say that I only face this when I go out but it is within my own family too. It is like I have chosen to be something that they don’t want me to be when for me it doesn’t feel like I have chosen this… this is just who I am, always have been and I assume always will be. I feel nothing that I should be ashamed of, but they make me feel like I can’t be the real me when I am around them.

  • Nik


    May 7th, 2018 at 9:14 AM

    I wonder why lesbian women, who are also at greater risk of sexual assault than heterosexuals, are left out of the article.

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