Risk and Protective Factors for Men's Sexual Violence Against Women at Higher Education Institutions: A Systematic and Meta-Analytic Review of the Longitudinal Evidence

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2022 Jul;23(3):716-732. doi: 10.1177/1524838020970900. Epub 2020 Nov 11.


Sexual violence among higher education institution (HEI) students is a growing public health concern. To date, there is little evidence on how to effectively prevent sexual violence among this demographic. This study is the first systematic review to meta-analyze all available evidence for risk and protective factors of sexual violence perpetrated by men at HEIs. We searched four electronic databases and multiple gray literature sources. We screened studies using prespecified selection criteria for the sample (HEI students who identify as men), outcome (sexual violence perpetration against peers), and study design (quantitative and longitudinal). Longitudinal studies provide the most rigorous available evidence on risk and protective factors. We identified 16 studies and meta-analyzed eight different risk factors: alcohol consumption, hostility toward women, delinquency, fraternity membership, history of sexual violence perpetration, rape myth acceptance, age at first sex, and peer approval of sexual violence. We deemed included studies to have a varied risk of bias and the overall quality of evidence to range from moderate to high. History of sexual violence perpetration (perpetration prior to entering an HEI) emerged as the strongest predictor of sexual violence perpetration at HEIs, complicating the notion that HEI environments themselves foster a culture of sexual violence. Peer support for sexual violence predicted perpetration while individual rape-supporting beliefs did not. Our findings suggest that interventions targeting peer norms (e.g., bystander interventions) and early sexual violence prevention and consent interventions for high school and elementary school students could be effective in reducing and preventing sexual violence at HEIs.

Keywords: dating violence; domestic violence; offenders; sexual assault.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Men
  • Protective Factors
  • Rape* / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses* / prevention & control
  • Sexual Behavior