Exploring perceptions of sexual assault in African American collegiate women with membership in Greek-letter sororities at a predominantly white institution
Scott, Ciera Victoria
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Sexual assault describes any form of sexual contact between individuals that occurred without clear, expressed consent by the trauma survivor (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, 2015). A national study reported that 27.7 of 1,000 college-aged women will be sexually assaulted (Fisher et al., 2000). Sorority membership is a risk factor for sexual assault in college-aged women due to high rates of alcohol consumption experienced at Greek social events (Minow & Einolf, 2009). Research disparities exist regarding sexual assault’s impact on collegiate women of color with sorority membership (Barrick et al., 2012; Krebs et al., 2011; Henry, 2009). The purpose of this psychological study was to explore the perceptions that self-identified African American women with membership in Greek-letter sororities at a predominantly white institution (PWI) possessed regarding sexual assault. A qualitative methodology known as transcendental phenomenology, centered in Empowerment Feminist Therapy and Black Feminist Theory, served as the theoretical foundation of the researcher’s exploration of the lived experiences of African American sorority women attending PWIs and their perceptions of sexual assault. The study participants included a total of 12 self-identified African American women with membership in Greek-letter sororities at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Results of this study included the identification of eight themes related to perceptions of sexual assault in African American sorority members attending PWIs. Participants’ interviews provided insight about the sexual assault survivorship status of African American sorority members attending PWIs, demonstrated the impact of racialized and gendered stereotypes on participants’ perceived risk for sexual assault, and revealed participants’ beliefs about cultural norms for sexual expression and sexual behaviors across genders. In addition, the study participants expressed the multi-faceted manner in which their Greek membership served as both a protective and a risk factor for their potential sexual victimization at a PWI.