Graduation Year

2016

Degree

M.A.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Janelle Applequist, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Artemio Ramirez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Samuel Bradley, Ph.D.

Keywords

college students, framing theory, rape

Abstract

For the period of 1995-2013, females ages 18 to 24 had the highest rate of rape and sexual assault victimizations compared to females in all other age groups (Lynn & Sinozich, 2014). There is an even wider problem when among student victims, 20 percent of rape and sexual assault victimizations were reported to police, compared to 32% reported among nonstudent victims ages 18 to 24 (Lynn & Sinozich, 2014). With staggering statistics on sexual assaults, it is clear that this has become a national issue, which has further developed onto college campuses nationwide. In the last decade, sexual assault has gotten more attention in the news than ever before. This study aims to understand the relationship between how the media frames sexual assault and what type of perceptions students have developed because of it. Framing theory will be used to identify if and how the media frames sexual assault and how students react or behave from what they have gathered from the media. This study also aims to look at the broader implications of framing regarding sexual assault, more specifically the framing of the victim, the framing of sexual assault in general, and the framing of preventative efforts and programs. Qualitative focus groups were conducted on the University of South Florida’s campus to gain rich data to fully understand student’s perceptions. It was found that four themes emerged from the focus group that included moderate awareness of the programs, lack of support from the university, confusion about available resources, and the media has influenced students view on sexual assault. The conclusion and future recommendations all steam from the results and what was learned about campus culture.

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