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Caught in a Web of Confusion

Assessing the Readability of University Webpages for Victims of Sexual Assault

Duncan, Shannon1; Yeatts, Paul PhD2; Kapusta, Ann MA3; Allen, Denise MEd3; Wilson, Jennifer DNP, RN, CPN1; Tilley, Donna Scott PhD, RN, CA SANE3

doi: 10.1097/JFN.0000000000000228
Original Articles

ABSTRACT Assuring the effectiveness of Web sites in communicating critical information to a college student who has experienced sexual assault is important and complex. Recognizing that the average American reads at the eighth grade level, the National Institutes of Health and the American Medical Association recommend that information be written at a sixth-grade reading level. A sample of 10 U.S. institutions of higher education (IHE) Web sites made up the sample of the current study. The IHEs included were all participants in a project called “Cultivating Safe College Campuses,” funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. This study aimed to gain more insight into the readability of college Web sites about sexual assault resources for the intended consumer—college students. The reading level of IHE Web sites with information about sexual assault should align with the reading level of their intended audience. The average readability of sexual assault Webpages for this study's sample of IHEs was over 13, well above the reading level of the average “first time in college” student. All IHEs should review the readability of their Web sites and revise them to use consistent and defined terms and present the material in a way that is clear and accessible for the student who has experienced trauma.

Author Affiliations:1College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University;

2Center for Research Design & Analysis, Texas Woman's University;

3Texas Woman's University.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Donna Scott Tilley, PhD, RN, CA SANE, Texas Woman's University, P.O. Box 425619 Denton, TX 76204. E-mail:

Received August 31, 2018; accepted for publication December 5, 2018.

© 2019 by the International Association of Forensic Nurses. All rights reserved.
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