Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Amy E. Naugle

Second Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi

Third Advisor

Dr. Bradley Huitema

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Bilinda Straight


Sexual assault, sexual coercion, heteronormative beliefs, college sexual assault


Sexual assault is a pervasive issue on college campuses, with large numbers of students experiencing sexual assault during their college careers (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). Sexual assault is often perpetrated by a known offender, which has brought increased attention to forms of sexual assault that do not necessarily include violence or the direct threat of violence. Sexual coercion is one such construct that has received increased attention in the literature, with several studies finding associations between heteronormative beliefs and sexual coercion (Eaton & Matamala 2014; Haworth- Hoeppner, 1998; Vanwesenbeek, 1998). Aims of the current study included further exploring the relationship between sexual coercion and heteronormative beliefs, as well as understanding the role of indirect sexual communication and sexual communication apprehension among college students. Specifically, it was proposed that indirect sexual communication would moderate the relationship between heteronormative beliefs and sexual coercion. It was also hypothesized that associations would exist between sexual communication apprehension and sexual coercion. Survey methods were used in a sample of 515 undergraduate students who self-reported their sexually coercive behavior, heteronormative sexual beliefs, communication styles, and beliefs about direct communication and consent in sexual encounters. Parametric statistics were used to analyze the patterns of responses. The results did not indicate that indirect sexual communication moderated the relationship between heteronormative beliefs and sexual coercion. However, regression analyses revealed that while heteronormative beliefs likely play a role in sexually coercive behaviors, indirect sexual communication may be a more relevant variable. Additionally, the current study failed to demonstrate a relationship between sexual communication apprehension and sexually coercive behaviors. The findings from this study have implications for sexual assault prevention efforts. Future research may consider further exploring sexual communication patterns and seek to understand what psychological or skill-based barriers exist to using direct communication during sexual encounters. Future research directions may also include considering the type, degree of closeness, and length of relationship between partners with who individuals report engaging in sexually coercive behaviors.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access