Sexual Abuse & Sexual Offense

This page is for Sexual Abuse & Sexual Offense, which I last taught at UTPA (as a special topics course then PSY 4350). I have not taught this for a few years, and it is not on the books at SUNY Fredonia any time in the near future. However, here is some information from the last couple of times I taught it.

In Fall 2012, approximately 40 students finished the course (60 signed up at the beginning–this is almost exactly the same pattern as previous years: about 1/3 always drop by the middle of the semester). It was a difficult, demanding, and complicated course–though less so than in 2011 (hear that, 2011 students? You had it the worst!)–but the students generally did a great job, producing excellent research for their own projects and great data for the Border Experiences Project (BEP website here).

On this page, I’d like to show the results of the final anonymous survey given to students. This survey asked questions about data collection and the research process as well as about the class experience. The comments were candid, interesting, and often helpful; I’d like to share them with the students and anyone else who finds such things useful. I first did this survey in 2011, so there will be several points of comparison with 2011 data.

Information About the Research

Research: Basic Numbers

A total of about 300 interviews were reported for data collection, but some were ruled invalid (due to suspicious patterns or–more frequently–because students reported that they were invalid), resulting in data for analysis from 283 (under current validity rules) and 245 for information from the ERP survey (because a couple of students did not complete the survey). From the graph below you can see that the vast majority of the class conducted the required seven interviews or more.


Here, for comparison, is the 2011 data (I did the axes better this year, so in the following graph 7 is really the mode):

Number of interviews per student

As you recall, we were all concerned about the length of the interviews, and it turns out we had good reason. As the next chart shows, the average interview took about an hour, with a good deal of variation in that figure — some interviews were (we hope without cutting too many corners) much shorter, while others took quite a lot longer.

int_lengthAs you can see, this pattern is very similar (accounting for the differences in reporting formats) to 2011’s data (below). This is interesting because the 2011 structured interview was much more lengthy and involved than the 2012 questionnaire. Perhaps students were counting the questionnaire administration time for each interview when they answered this question. Either way, I hope it means that 2012 students had more time to explore their research topics in the portion of the interviews they planned themselves.

length of interviews

Students tended to interview mostly friends, as last year (second graph). As in 2011, students may have preferred to talk with friends rather than others in their lives about these uncomfortable subjects.


Here are the 2011 data (horizontal bars this time):

researcher-interviewee relationship

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Participant age distribution

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Relationship Status No. Percent
single 132 52.80%
married 66 26.40%
divorced 18 7.20%
separated 6 2.40%
living together 25 10.00%
widowed 3 1.20%
total 250 100.00%

In other words, we interviewed too many college-aged participants and not enough older participants. This doesn’t necessarily destroy the study — the sample isn’t perfectly representative, but that’s not always a damning indictment — it does, however, weaken the study, and bring us to the topic of…

Adherence to Protocols

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

adherence to random recruitment protocol

And that’s probably why our sample isn’t so representative.

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Inaccuracies in… No.   %
Definitions of SA 3 1.2
Scenarios 6 2.4
Vignettes 3 1.2
Knowledge/attitudes 2 0.8
Final questions 3 1.2
Questionnaires 17 6.8
Total: 25 10.0

2011: A note about numbers: it may not be clear, but only six student researchers reported any specific inaccuracies in their data. Four others indicated that, in general, there might be inaccuracies somewhere in their data, though they didn’t say where. Thus, ten students out of the 40 in the class indicated some level of inaccuracy in the data. Later comments show that some of this inaccuracy is innocuous (e.g., concerns that the translations were not adequate, or worries that the participant was a little confused about some questions), though some inaccuracies are clearly the result of students falsifying data, usually when it was missing for some other reason.



Experiences in and Perceptions of the Course

Student Experiences

The first bit of data here is students’ answers to the questions about the personal value of the research component (in brown) versus the educational component (in blue) of the course. As you can see, both were generally seen positively by most students, with some variation in that. Also, only a few students indicated low value for either component. Check out this graph with overlapping histograms, and the 2011 chart below it.


Next, it is interesting to see the motivations that students initially had for enrolling in the course. The 2011 free-response items, grouped by Yours Truly, are shown in the table below the graph. Those groupings were the basis of 2012’s more structured data collection. I hope you can figure out the abbreviations for the categories. The graph is a little funky, but was lots of fun to do: students could choose any (or all or none) of the categories represented as relevant motivations, and then put the others (using Qualtrics’ drag-and-drop niftiness) into a box labeled “not a motivation”. So the gray bars represent the percent of students for whom a particular item was not a motivation for enrolling in the course, and the colored bars above them represent the percentage for whom that was a motivation.

A couple of notes: Yes, it’s lovely that the #1 and #2 spots were taken by Interest in topic, and career goals, respectively, but #2, and #4 are pretty quotidian: fulfilling an academic requirement and scheduling. Notably, it seems most people considered all or most of these to be motivations, showing once again that human motivation is complex.

I added two more items this year, because of suspicions I’ve developed after speaking to students since 2007 or so: sexual abuse (as a victim) that you or someone you know experienced, or sexual aggressiveness (i.e. as a perpetrator or something similar) that you or someone you know experienced. I was not surprised that the first two categories had a few students indicating this as a motivation, but was quite surprised that the last two did. I did not know if (a) anyone who had perpetrated (or almost-perpetrated, or felt urges, or had a confusing mixed experience with maybe-perpetration) might be in the course, or (b) would be willing to indicate this. Apparently both (a) and (b) occurred this year. This actually makes me quite happy. I can only hope that this course helped both victims and potential aggressors to move closer to a healthy, useful way of viewing their experiences, and–especially for aggressors–to seek help outside their own personal resources.


And, as mentioned above, here are the groupings of the 2011 free-response answers to this item.

Theme No. %
Interest in subject 26 81.3
Academic Requirement 21 65.6
desire for learning/understanding 6 18.8
Career plans 5 15.6
schedule/availability 3 9.4
Personal experience 2 6.3
other 7 21.9

Students’ motivations for remaining in the course were interesting, as well, and (as always) fully one-third of the people who initially enrolled did not continue (as is the case every year so far). Here are the results from this year, followed by the groupings from the free-response items from 2011:


We see above that the main findings from 2011 are repeated.  The “personal change” item was related to the victim/aggressor items in the previous question, or so I hoped. The numbers seem to match up: a few people stayed in the course with the goal–at least partially–of achieving some personal change related to sexual abuse or offense. Below are the 2011 data.

Theme No. %
Interest 19 61.3
Stuck in course 7 22.6
Challenge/refusal to quit 6 19.4
Personal/career goals 3 9.7
Instructor/lectures 3 9.7
(Anti-motivational themes) 10 32.3


Course Evaluation: Educational Component

Students’ feelings about what worked and what didn’t in the area of the (non-research) educational component of the course were quite helpful, though not as surpising as in 2011. The things that students thought worked best in the educational part of the course:

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Theme No. %
New perspectives 9 28.1
Accurate information 7 21.9
Lectures/discussions 6 18.8
Readings 5 15.6
Discussing the undiscussable 2 6.3
Acquiring empathy for victims/offenders 2 6.3

Like a crazy person, I also asked what students thought the worst aspect of the educational component of the course was. Criticism is never fun to receive, but I was surprised to find how thoughtful the comments were.

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Theme No. %
Readings 6 22.2
General work load 5 18.5
Papers 4 14.8
Online activities 4 14.8
Not enough discussions 4 14.8
Complexity 2 7.4
(No “worst” aspect) 4 14.8

This leads to the question about improving the educational aspect of the course. Again, there was a mix of predictable and unpredictable (but interesting) answers:

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Theme No. %
Lower work requirements 5 25
Class/online discussions 4 20
Organization 3 15
Exams 3 15
No improvement needed 3 15


Course Evaluation: Research Component

Students’ perceptions of the best aspect of the research component largely fell into fairly clear categories:

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Theme No. %
Project/research 17 58.6
Exposure to new ideas 7 24.1
Nothing 2 6.9

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Where there’s a best, there’s also a worst. And here it is: Worst aspect of research component of the class:

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Theme No. %
Time commitment 8 34.8
Inefficiency/ organization 3 13.0
Topic discomfort 3 13.0
No “worst” 4 17.4

Next, how to improve the research aspect of the course.

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Theme No. %
Manage semester time 11 44.0
Shorten interview 3 12.0
More guidance/details 2 8.0
Less work 2 8.0
Nothing 4 16.0


General Course Comments

Students were asked what was the most difficult aspect of the course. For some reason I made a line graph of this. Workload and time were the most frequently cited category, followed by exams, transcribing, and the overall poster/project. Not unexpected.


Here are 2011’s responses to the open-response question:

Theme No. %
work/time load 9 28.1
poster/research project 8 25.0
readings/RPs 6 18.8
exams 5 15.6
complexity 5 15.6
interviewing 3 9.4

Now for what students felt was the easiest aspect of the course.

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Theme No. %
RPs 15 45.5
In-class 6 18.2
Exams 5 15.2
Attendance 3 9.1
Media presentations 3 9.1
Proposals/research 2 6.1
Interviews 2 6.1


I asked students for final comments about the course, and those will be the last table in this document. Here is a rough breakdown of the themes in these comments:

[2011 data shown below; 2012 chart not made, yet]

Theme No. %
Enjoyed class 10 37.0
Professor characteristics 10 37.0
Continue involvement 4 14.8
Work load 5 18.5

Notable Quotes from 2011

No document like this would be complete without some awesome quotations at the end, selected by me and my personal biases, and organized into essentially arbitrary categories. If there are things in italics, these are my insertions, either explanations or responses. Also note that I’ve tweaked spelling and grammar in a few places for consistency. I have not yet put any of these together for 2012–and I don’t think there will be as many extensive responses, due to a different questionnaire format–but I want to leave these interesting ones here, for now.

Challenge and Work

“I honestly enrolled in this course because I thought it might be easy, but I was very wrong. I appreciate the slap in the face. The reality of how intense and detailed research really is has finally hit me and forced me to work harder than I have in years. Thank you, Dr. Rogers. While such difficult and tedious work may scare others, you have inspired me to get my act together and improve myself so that I can achieve my career goals.”

“The class was very exhausting. By the last quarter everyone I talked to in the class was just exhausted.”

[Motivation to stay in the course]: “I don’t quit.”


Warm Fuzzies for Dr. Rogers

“This class was a great experience and I would take it again if I were given the opportunity…”

“Thank you, you and your staff are doing [great work for] the valley.”

“This was the most interesting and fun course I have taken because we had activities or projects to do and did not just involve pure lectures.”

“…I would recommend any of your future classes to anyone.”

“The research aspect of the course is beneficial, especially in the field I will be entering. Proper research is a useful tool to be successful in many fields.”

“I loved the articles. Personally they taught me a lot and I believed that was indeed positive.”

“I enjoyed your class and I want to continue doing research, if you have a place in where I can help you I will be very happy to do that.”


Less Warm and Less Fuzzy

“Overall, Dr. Rogers is TOO nice of a professor. He needs to let students earn their grade…”

“I’m just upset I won’t be receiving my diploma as expected due to I had trouble balancing my time for another class.”

“I felt as though a lot of class time was wasted on ‘discussions’. I believe this contributed to the amount of absences for many students throughout the semester.”

“Some articles made me unhappy… For example, child pornography and child abuse.”


Things to Ponder

[This one needs to be read in its entirety, though I’ve edited it very slightly]: “Honestly, the coursework for this class kicked my ass… When i learned we would be doing seven interviews conducting your research combined with our own research topics, I was pissed that you decided to use the undergrads as your minion unpaid research assistant army to collect your data, but enticed that I could learn how to do my own research from formulation, lit review, data collection, data analysis, to mock poster conference. … [I] argued with my spouse about the importance of double-sided tape for academic posters… I learned about the entire research process on a super compressed timeline with actual subjects. This is an essential skill for my own research I am presently engaged in. I feel ambiguous towards you and your class. I am eternally grateful that you challenged me to learn this analytical and academic research skills, but still question your method of obtaining your own research data. … I valued the way you structured the class to maximize both time for the course material and time for the research component. “

“I would maybe divide the class and do the education part first… then focus on the research the rest of the semester. I think this would not be so overwhelming.”

“The deleting files on the computer thing dosent seem very beleivable, hahah. You can’t read a single thing on the screen to see what you are deleting, in addition, deleted files can be restored. anything in cyberspace can be retireved.”

“…please provide the key highlights [from readings] to students who aren’t able to extrapolate the main ideas from journal articles.”

“I developed a sense of empathy for the abused people that in the past I did not have.”

“[the best part was] the fact that they could give me an hour of their undivided attention.”

“Won’t you be my neighbor?”

[Best thing about research]: “Going outside of one’s own views and better understanding that yours is not the only opinion that matters.”

[Best thing about class]: “Discussing the many different topics regarding sexual abuse, something that does not get discussed anywhere else with such accuracy and detail (probably because it is so uncomfortable to discuss).”

“I now feel a new responsibility for the abused people outside. I was surprised when my feelings to the abusers changed… now I [see] them as a humans that have a strong necessity of help.”

[Suggested improvements]: “less work but who cares.. if I had to do it, your future students have to do it.”

“[the interviews] …made some people angry or disgusted about the topic.”

“Perhaps have students work on looking up literature articles. I know some psychology major students that have never seen a psychological related article or know how to look one up.”

“Keep on Truckin'” Sadly, my last pickup was wrecked in grad school and sold to some guys from El Salvador.


Dr. Rogers’ Absolute Two Most Favoritest Comments

“Rawr, you suck. This better be some groundbreaking, award winning, Nobel prize garnering research you made us do, otherwise, we are sending a team of smurfs to sit on you and paint your office blue.”

“I discovered the researcher in me. … I now know that this is the kind of work I want to do.”

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