Sexual assault is a prevalent problem for women. As a result of sexual assault, women experience a host of negative psychological consequences such as posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety. While some survivors label their sexual assault experience as such (i.e., are acknowledged survivors), other survivors do not and use other terms (e.g., a miscommunication). The effect of acknowledgement of sexual assault on post-assault outcomes has yielded mixed findings: some find that unacknowledged survivors report better psychological functioning, while others find that acknowledged survivors have better outcomes. This study sought to better understand acknowledgment status and psychological outcomes by examining the role of social reactions to disclosures of sexual assault. It was hypothesized that, among survivors of sexual assault, there would be an indirect effect of acknowledgment status on psychological symptoms via social reactions to disclosure. College women who were at least 18 years of age, experienced a sexual assault, and disclosed their sexual assault were recruited through the Psychology Department Sona system. Results indicated that acknowledged survivors reported more severe PTSD symptoms which was partially accounted for by turning against social reactions. Additionally, the study found that acknowledged survivors reported more social reactions of all three types, and that turning against and positive social reactions were positively associated with more severe PTSD symptoms. Future studies should explore the mechanisms responsible for these relationships and analyze the eight individual social reactions.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Bernstein, Emily, "Sexual Assault Acknowledgment and Psychological Symptoms: The Indirect Effect of Social Reactions to Disclosures" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 19.