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Behind closed doors: university employees as stakeholders in campus sexual violence

Marina Rosenthal (University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA)
Carly P. Smith (Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, USA)
Jennifer J. Freyd (University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 18 September 2017

Issue publication date: 16 October 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine employees’ experiences of institutional betrayal after a campus sexual assault.


University employees completed online measures evaluating various attitudes toward the university.


The majority of participants reported institutional betrayal in the university’s response to the case. Employees who reported institutional betrayal indicated significantly lower attachment to the university than employees who reported no institutional betrayal. Institutional betrayal mediated the relationship between institutional attachment and institutional forgiveness.

Social implications

Universities’ failure to respond effectively and promptly to sexual violence does not go unnoticed by employees. Institutional actions after sexual assault have the power to damage employees’ attachment to the university – employees who experienced institutional betrayal were less attached, and ultimately less forgiving of the institution. Universities’ poor prevention and response efforts impact their entire campus community and compromise community members’ ongoing relationship with the school.


College students’ active resistance to sexual violence on campus is featured prominently on the pages of major news outlets. Yet, less featured in research and media is the impact of campus sexual assault on university employees, particularly after sexual assault cases are mishandled. This study offers perspective on employees’ experiences and reactions after a prominent sexual assault case.



Rosenthal, M., Smith, C.P. and Freyd, J.J. (2017), "Behind closed doors: university employees as stakeholders in campus sexual violence", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 290-304.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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