The researchers found that students who perceived their campus as an inclusive environment for LGBT people were significantly less likely to be the victims of sexual assault. “I believe this study provides proof of concept for how environment may influence sexual assault violence,” said lead author Robert Coulter, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Coulter and colleagues write in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence that sexual assault affects 2 to 15 percent of U.S. undergraduates.
In earlier research, they found that certain groups are more at risk of sexual assault than others. For example, women and transgender people in general are at greater risk of sexual assault than non-transgender men.
To see whether campus environment is tied to the risk of sexual assault, the researchers analyzed survey data collected in 2010 from 1,925 undergraduates who were LGBT or questioning their sexual orientation. Overall, 5.2 percent reported that they had been sexually assaulted on campus.