The present study investigated whether the type of social reaction(s) experienced by sexual assault victims varies according to the type of social support provider told about the assault in a convenience sample of victims (N = 155) completing a mail survey. Both closed-ended data and open-ended written responses were analyzed to determine the types of social reactions victims experienced from a variety of informal and formal support providers. Tangible aid/information support was reported more often from women disclosing to rape crisis centers, police, and physicians, whereas emotional support/validation was commonly reported by those telling rape crisis centers. Being blamed, treated differently, distracted, and discouraged from talking about the assault were more common responses for women telling physicians or police. Analyses exploring whether the impact of social reactions on victim adjustment varied according to support provider type showed that, as hypothesized, emotional support from friends was related to better recovery than emotional support from other support sources. However, contrary to expectation, the impact of victim blame on adjustment did not vary according to type of support provider. Implications for research on social support and clinical treatment of sexual assault victims are discussed.
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The effect of the victim-offender sexual assault relationship on women’s psychological symptomatology was examined in a randomized community survey. Fourteen and one-half percent of women (N = 240) experienced a sexual assault in adulthood. Assaults committed by strangers, acquaintances, and intimates were compared using both chi-square and two-way analyses of variance. Few differences were found in sexual assault experiences according to the victim-offender relationship. Offender use of violence showed a curvilinear relationship with degree of closeness of the victim-offender relationship, whereas victim resistance did not vary according to the victim-offender relationship. Analyses of psychological symptom measures showed that sexual distress was more common for women attacked by intimates, fear/anxiety was more common for women assaulted by strangers, and depression did not vary according to the victim-offender relationship.
Few studies have examined factors related to problem drinking and drug use in Black sexual assault victims. Given that sexual assault and histories of trauma are associated with substance abuse in victims, research is needed to determine what factors may be related to these outcomes for Black survivors. Furthermore, child sexual abuse (CSA) is a risk factor for substance abuse, but no studies have examined correlates of substance abuse outcomes separately according to CSA history. This study examines a large diverse sample of Black sexual assault victims (N = 495) to determine the associations of demographics, trauma history, assault characteristics, and postassault psychosocial factors with problem drinking and drug use using multivariate regressions. Traumatic life events, using substances to cope and self-blame, were associated with greater problem drinking and drug use. Implications for practitioners and policymakers are discussed.
This study examined differences between gang and individual offender rape incidents reported to the Chicago police. Analyses showed that victims and offenders in gang rape incidents were younger, more likely to be unemployed, but not different in marital status or race than victims and offenders in individual rapes (e.g., single offender, single victim crimes). Gang rapes were characterized by more alcohol and drug involvement, fewer weapons, more night attacks, less victim resistance, and more severe sexual assault outcomes compared with individual rapes. Regression analyses revealed distinct correlates of physical injury outcomes for gang and individual rape incidents. Implications for treatment and prevention of these types of assaults are discussed.
A diverse sample of community-residing women in a large metropolitan area who had experienced adult sexual assault was surveyed using standardized measures in an NIAAA-funded study (2003–2004). Four groups (N = 503) of victims: (1) post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-only, (2) PTSD and illicit drug use, (3) PTSD and drinking problems, and (4) PTSD and polysubstance use were compared using bivariate analyses. Victims with PTSD/polysubstance use had lower socioeconomic status, more extensive trauma histories, worse current psychological functioning, more problematic post-assault psychosocial experiences, and more sexual revictimization at follow-up than those with PTSD only. Implications for future research are discussed.
- Go to article: The Role of Sexual Orientation in the Victimization and Recovery of Sexual Assault Survivors
Few studies examine the sexual violence victimization and recovery of nonheterosexuals. Limited available research suggests that lesbian and bisexual women are at increased risk for sexual violence and experience more recovery problems following assault than heterosexuals. We examine differences by sexual orientation in victimization, recovery, and social reactions as well as whether racial differences relate to recovery in female sexual assault survivors (N = 1,863) from the community. Bisexual women emerged as a distinct group from heterosexual women with greater recovery problems and experienced greater impact of social reactions. Black sexual minority women also had more negative outcomes than White sexual minority women. Results suggest that differences in sexual orientation and race relate to poorer recovery, especially for survivors with multiple marginalized identities.
- Go to article: A Short Measure of Social Reactions to Sexual Assault: The Social Reactions Questionnaire-Shortened
Social reactions to disclosures of sexual assault have significant effects on women’s postassault recovery. However, being the most widely used measure of these reactions, the 48-item Social Reactions Questionnaire (SRQ; Ullman, 2000) is too long for some research and evaluation efforts. Thus, we developed a 16-item short version, the Social Reactions Questionnaire-Shortened (SRQ-S). Three preexisting college and community samples of women survivors (N = 1,012; 1,084; and 344) were used to determine which SRQ items were most related to psychological symptoms and could form reliable subscales. The brief version was then administered in a college and community sample of 447 women survivors. Confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) and supporting psychometrics showed the SRQ-S reliably measures three general scales of the SRQ (Turning Against, Unsupportive Acknowledgment, Positive Reactions) as well as eight 2-item subscales (e.g., Blame). The SRQ-S provides researchers and interventionists with a brief alternative measure to the original SRQ.
Little research has compared victims of gang and individual rapes, with only a few studies of college and police samples. This study compared gang (e.g., multiple offender) and individual (e.g., single offender) rapes in a large, diverse sample of female victims from the community. Comparisons of trauma histories (e.g., child sexual abuse), assault characteristics (e.g., offender violence) and outcomes (sexual acts, physical injuries), and current functioning (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder, lifetime suicide attempts) showed that gang rape victims were worse off overall compared with victims of single offenders. In terms of help seeking, there were few differences in informal support seeking, but gang rape victims perceived their social networks more negatively. Gang rape victims reported to police, medical, and mental health sources more often than single-offender victims and received more negative social reactions from those they told about their assaults. Suggestions for future research and intervention with gang rape victims are provided.
This study examined differences in male-perpetrated adult sexual assault experiences among women of various sexual orientations using a large urban convenience sample ( N = 1,022). Results showed many similarities in disclosure to others, perceived helpfulness, and attributions of blame, but there were also differences by sexual orientation. Heterosexual women were more likely to experience completed sexual assault than lesbian or bisexual women. Lesbians were more likely to be assaulted by relatives than bisexual or heterosexual women. Finally, bisexual women disclosed the assault to the greatest number of formal support sources, were most likely to tell a romantic partner about the assault, received the fewest positive social reactions overall, and had higher posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology.
Sexual assaults commonly involve alcohol use, but little is known about alcohol’s effects on many aspects of assaults and their aftermath. We investigated characteristics of victims, perpetrators, and assaults as a function of whether alcohol was involved in the assault, as well as differences in women’s postassault experiences. Assaults prior to which only perpetrators were drinking differed not only from non-alcohol-related assaults, but also from those prior to which both perpetrators and victims were drinking. Understanding the effects of alcohol-related assaults is important for identifying victims who should be targeted for mental health and substance use interventions.