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Rape Myth Acceptance Research Changes College Campuses

Friday, January 22, 2016

By Tori Gardner ('16)

Rape has become an alarmingly widespread issue on college campuses across the world. It is a violent act that can no longer be ignored. UNCW graduate student, Kathryn Burnham, is working with multi-level modeling to analyze a variety of statistics contributing to rape myth acceptance. What is rape myth acceptance? Rape myths are the beliefs that women bring on the victimization to themselves and takes away some of the blame from their perpetrators.

Burnham is working under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Vanderminden in the Department of Sociology and Criminology to research the acceptance of these myths. The goal of her thesis is to discover what factors contribute to sexual assault and the levels, high or low, of rape myth acceptance on college campuses. Vanderminden shares, “This study is very timely as we see the context of the study very prevalent among college campuses.  It is determining the relationships of this context with behavior that may come as a result.”

The study has gone global, as research statistics have been gathered from college campuses in 32 different countries. The potential impact is immense. With conclusive findings all across the globe, college campuses can begin to develop more specific prevention programs.

Here at UNCW the C.A.R.E. Office, Collaboration for Assault Response and Education, provides counseling, crisis intervention and support for victims of harassment, assault and rape. With results from Burnham’s research and analysis on the multi-level modeling scale, opportunities for support systems like these will begin to open up and flourish.

Burnham’s goal is to find different characteristics and factors contributing to college students’ behavior among the large variety of countries. She states, “For me it is very much about application of the research in reducing sexual assault. We hope to find patterns that can predict behavior, and this research will become the necessary preliminary information for that.”

Burnham is hopeful that the findings will give insight to prevention programs on college campuses like the C.A.R.E. office at UNCW. With new behavior and warning signs these efforts will ideally see more success.

What once began as a broad spectrum Sociology Capstone course research project, has now developed into an in-depth multi-level modeling thesis research. Burnham and Vanderminden’s hope is that the published findings at the conclusion of the research will provide insight that can be put to use among college campuses across the globe.