Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Kortegast, Carrie A.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


Institutions of higher education are not safe for women-identified students regarding gender-based violence, specifically sexual assault. The existence of a rape culture, with societal norms that ignore, allow, or implicitly encourage sexual violence to be perpetrated by men against women, is alive and well on today’s college campuses. Exact numbers are difficult to discern in such an underreported crime, but most researchers agree that 20-25% if all traditional-aged women are raped during their college and university experience, with the numbers being even higher for bisexual and trans-women. Further, the rates of sexual assault of women college students aged 18-25 are triple the national average. This rape culture, along with the statistics and realities in the specific context of higher education, paint a bleak picture and create a climate of anxiety, fear, and trepidation for women. The realities of this narrative have become so fixed in campus life they have become almost invisible; the burden of women taking responsibility to not get raped is a significant one that is often overlooked. This phenomenological study, using a critical theory framework, examined how six women manage their college experiences about fear of sexual assault. Students’ feelings of terror, the normalization and burden of risk-reduction, along with powerlessness, combined with misinformation about rape and an unfair bargain of making sacrifices to feel secure, all lead to a sense of being controlled. Suggestions for how post-secondary institutions can improve this climate and reality are discussed.


89 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type