Sexual assault, risk factors, schools, routine activities theory
A large body of literature has sought to understand the factors that increase the risk of sexual victimization among university students, mainly by focusing on the characteristics of victims or perpetrators. A recent promising avenue of research has been to examine the role of the social environment of the victim when explaining sexual victimization. We contribute to this emerging stream of research by identifying a protective factor: connectedness. Connectedness refers to an individual´s perception of belonging to social groups and institutions, and being valued, cared for and respected by its members. Connectedness protects potential victims by decreasing exposure to motivated aggressors and by increasing peer guardianship in risky situations, which reduces the likelihood of victimization. We provide evidence of the role of connectedness in a sample of 3,355 Colombian students. Results from multivariate logistic regressions provide evidence of the importance of connectedness in protecting against sexual harassment and assault: feeling connected to family and friends decreased the odds of rape up to 46%, while belonging to social groups where alcohol and drugs are not perceived as a big problem decreased the odds of harassment by 20%. We discuss these results and their implications for campus policies targeted toward the prevention of sexual victimization.