The purpose of this study was to explore
incidents of sexual assault of woman who were breaking up or trying to
break up intimate relationships and the link to male peer support for
sexually aggressive men in rural Ohio.
This qualitative exploratory study looked at
incidents of sexual assault committed by former husbands or
cohabitants in the lives of rural women in Ohio. Two female research
assistants carried cellular phones 24 hours a day to receive calls
from women interested in participating in the study. Callers were told
the purpose of the study and were then asked a series of screening
questions to determine their eligibility to be interviewed. The main
criteria were being aged 18 or older and having ever had any type of
unwanted sexual experience when they wanted to end, were trying to
end, or after they had ended a relationship with a husband or live-in
male partner. An unwanted sexual experience was defined as sexual
contact, sexual coercion, attempted rape, or rape. If they met the
selection criteria, the women were then invited to a semi-structured
face-to-face interview at a time and place of their choosing.
Participants were paid 25 dollars for their time and up to 7.75
dollars for travel expenses. Six interviews were conducted over the
phone, five were held off campus, and the rest were conducted in an
Ohio University office.
A total of 43 women were interviewed. Posters placed in
public places attracted most of the respondents (n = 27). Eight women
called the number after exposure to ads or stories about the study in
the media and the same number were referred by individuals or
organizations (n = 8). Most of the respondents (n = 30) lived in Athens
County, three lived in Hocking County, and one lived in Vinton County,
and nine lived in other rural parts of Ohio. The mean age of the
sample was 35 and the mean income for 2002 was 13,588 dollars.
Sixty-five percent (n = 28) had some type of post-secondary education
and close to half of the participants were unemployed. Of the 25 who
had been married, all had divorced or legally separated, but only five
remarried. Most of the respondents also had children.
All women in rural Ohio who were victims of sexual assault
during or after separation or divorce between 2003 and 2004.
The interview text files contain questions on
background and demographic information such as income, level of
education, employment status, marital status, length of the
relationship, number of children, ethnicity or race, country of
origin, religious affiliation, and how long the respondent had lived
in the current city or town. Other questions asked about the
respondent's perception of crime levels and safety concerns.
Respondents were asked to describe any unwanted sexual experiences.
Further questions asked about the respondent's social networks,
contact and relationships with neighbors, and any help she may have
received from the criminal justice system, as well as any social
support from friends, counselors, or shelters in dealing with an
abusive relationship. Partner-specific questions focused on the use of
pornography and interactions with male friends. Finally, respondents
were asked for policy recommendations that they thought would better
protect women from unwanted sexual contact during or after separations