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Student-Athletes’, Coaches’, and Administrators’ Perspectives of Sexual Violence Prevention on Three Campuses with National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I and II Athletic Programs

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Research has found associations between intercollegiate athletics and risk for sexual violence, and that sexual violence is more pervasive at colleges and universities with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I athletic programs, relative to NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and no athletic programs. Simultaneously, sports involvement is linked with prosocial values and there are documented developmental benefits of sports participation. College athletic programs hold promise for fostering sexual violence prevention but there is limited knowledge about how student-athletes conceptualize sexual violence and how athletes, coaches, and administrators perceive available prevention and response programs. We conducted seven Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and 21 In-Depth Interviews (IDIs) with student-athletes, athletic directors, and coaches from public university Division I (n = 2) and Division II (n = 1) campuses. We assessed perceptions of sexual violence, knowledge and opinions of available prevention and response programs, and sought input on how to bridge gaps in campus sexual violence policies. Student-athletes associated sexual violence with alcohol in their relationships with peers and asymmetrical power dynamics in relationships with coaches and faculty. Athletes felt strong connections with teammates and sports programs but isolated from the larger campus. This created barriers to students' use of services and the likelihood of reporting sexual violence. Athletes felt the mandatory sexual violence prevention training, including additional NCAA components, were ineffective and offered to protect the university and its athletic programs from legal complications or cultural ridicule. Athletic staff were aware of policies and programs for reporting and referring sexual violence cases but their knowledge on how these served students was limited. Student-athletes were uncomfortable disclosing information regarding relationships and sexual violence to coaches and preferred peer-led prevention approaches.

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