Sexual assault (SA) is an ongoing concern in the United States (US). With a rate above the national average, SA is especially a concern in the Western state in which this study was conducted. Identifying victim vulnerabilities related to SA is an area of research that is currently limited. In this retrospective study, data on victim vulnerabilities were collected from 4,038 standardized SA forensic medical examination forms. Descriptive statistical analyses were conducted to identify vulnerabilities and Pearson's chi-square tests of association were conducted to explore the relationships between extralegal variables. The extralegal variables represent data not contained within the scope of the law, rather data which pertain to the victim or relationship between victim and suspect. Study findings indicate young women are at highest risk for SA. White women are the largest racial group in the state and, accordingly, had the highest rate of SA. However, some racial minorities, including Native American and African American, were found to potentially be at higher risk per capita. A substantial number of SA victims reported having medical problems, and the number of SA victims who reported having a mental illness was double the per capita rate. Victims are most commonly assaulted by an acquaintance. Consumption of drugs or alcohol by the victim or suspect was found in a significant number of cases. A potential trend was noted with victims reporting being asleep and awakened to assault. These results identify various aspects of vulnerability to SA and support the argument that sexual predators attack vulnerable individuals. More research is needed to further evaluate the various associations found in this study. Increasing our understanding of SA and associated vulnerabilities will improve the effectiveness of outreach to vulnerable populations by means of education, screening, and preventative programs.



College and Department

Nursing; Nursing



Date Submitted


Document Type



rape, sexual assault, vulnerabilities, extralegal variables