Pearson, John Simon (2021) Investigating Sexual Assault and Rape among Young Adults in the UK: Victimisation and Perpetration Prevalence, Risk and Motivational Factors, the Role of Consent and a Comparison of Student and Non-Student Groups. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Official statistics and media reports highlight the high prevalence rate of sexual victimisation among young adults in the UK. However, academic research in this area is behind that of other countries, such as the United States, and investigations conducted in the UK fail to compare student and non-student populations. Using a Pragmatic philosophical foundation, as well routine activity theory and cognitive distortion theory as theoretical frameworks, the project aimed to better understand sexual victimisation and perpetration by identifying the prevalence rates among 18-30-year-olds, exploring the extent that demographical/risk factors are related to victimisation or perpetration, as well as identify how sexual consent is related to reported victimisation/perpetration. A mixed methodology was used in two phases to holistically explore the research questions by combining quantitative and qualitative methods. Phase one used a large-scale quantitative questionnaire in three parts (prevalence/demographical vulnerability, risk factors and consent), which was completed by 544 18-30-year-old adults. Each area of the questionnaire was analysed separately to highlight significant factors that were more common among reported victims or perpetrators of a number of sexual assault and rape types. Binominal logistical regression was then conducted in stages to determine the predictability of these factors on victimisation and the extent they can explain the variance between victims and non-victims. Significant factors included gender, marital status, dating app use and attitudes towards pornography. Phase two then built upon phase one by conducting two focus group discussions with 8, 18–30-year-old adults concerning their thoughts and observations surrounding phase one findings. The discussions yielded interesting themes, such as those who are vulnerable to assault or rape and the dangers of sexting and online dating etc. As a result of these findings a visual model of victimisation and perpetration was developed. The implications of this project are the contribution the findings have to our theoretical understanding of sexual victimisation/perpetration among a young adult population and provide information that can be used in support/prevention strategies, as well as highlight how a mixed methods approach can be beneficial.

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