Prevalence rates of unwanted sexual experiences (USE's) of higher education students: a systematic review

Megan Reynolds, Ngozi Anyadike-Danes, Susan Lagdon, Aine Aventin, Cherie Armour

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


Over the past few years, unwanted sexual experiences (USE’s) at Higher Education Institutions (HEI) have become a major topic of conversation among student activists, researchers, media outlets and HEI, as they pose significant public health and safety risks for students (Sabri, Warren, Kaufman, Coe & Alhusen, 2019). USE’s can have a range of negative impacts on both an individual’s mental and physical health (de Visser, 2007), and their academic performance (Jordan, Combs & Smith, 2014). Most of the research on the prevalence rates of USE’s has and continues to be conducted in the United States of America (USA). However, research has been emerging from the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland. The main reports include Hidden Marks (2010), Stand Together Report (2016), Say Something (2013) and The Sexual Experiences Survey (2020), respectively. However, this research conducted by Student Unions is insufficient in addressing USE’s and the impacts of such among university students. Thus, in order to fully examine the literature within this area, a systematic review was undertaken. This paper was conducted in the context of a wider study examining the issue of USE’s and it’s impacts in Northern Ireland, hence the rationale for including the UK and Ireland, and the US was included in the review, as most research has been conducted in this country. At present, there has not been a systematic review that has synthesised evidence from the US, UK and Ireland that can help us understand the evidence and gaps in relation to the prevalence and impacts of USEs in student populations. Therefore, in this paper, we propose to systematically review recent literature on the prevalence rates of USE’s and it’s impacts on HEI students in the USA, UK and Ireland. We will consider how research has defined and measured USE’s among students and whether participant demographics are representative of student populations across gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We argue that this systematic review should provide context for how researchers can build networks in using consistent definitions and measures when investigating USE’s of HEI students.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2021
EventQueen's University Belfast School Psychology Postgraduate Conference 2020 - Online Conference
Duration: 25 Sept 202025 Sept 2020


ConferenceQueen's University Belfast School Psychology Postgraduate Conference 2020


  • Unwanted Sexual Experiences
  • Mental Health
  • Systematic review
  • University students


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