Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Amira Proweller

Second Advisor

Thomas Noel

Third Advisor

Beth Catlett


Sexual violence continues to be an issue that impacts student safety on college campuses. Approximately a quarter of students directly face violence in higher education. In the last several decades, college professionals have implemented a variety of sexual violence prevention programming and policies. However, these efforts have not decreased the number of sexual violence acts on campuses. Although students continue to be subjected to environments where sexual violence occurs, their voices are missing from current sexual violence research. Using a phenomenological approach, this dissertation explores college students’ perceptions of sexual violence climate on their campus. In this study, interviews with eight college students uncovered perceptions of the sexual violence climate at a midwestern state institution of higher education. The goal of this study was to uncover participants’ lived experiences around the shared phenomenon of sexual violence. Drawing on aspects of phenomenological research, the four themes that arose from the data are naming sexual violence fear, the normalization of sexual violence, the university cover up, and students taking safety into their own hands. These themes indicate that sexual violence continues to be a substantial problem within higher education. The study calls for institutional leaders to take urgent action by reexamining sexual violence prevention strategies and policy. In doing so, college professionals can implement intentional actions that work towards decreasing the number of sexual violence acts within higher education.