Social Reactions to Rape Victims: Healing and Hurtful Effects on Psychological and Physical Health Outcomes
In this study, 102 rape survivors were interviewed about the social reactions they received from family and friends post-rape. Results supported Ullman's (1996b) conclusion that the overall contribution of positive social reaction (e.g., providing support, listening, believing) on victims' recovery is negligible, but that negative social reactions (e.g., blaming) hinder recovery. In contrast to Ullman's (1996b) work, this research also examined whether rape victims have similar perceptions as to what constitutes a "positive" and "negative" social reaction. Results indicated that victims often agree as to what reactions are healing (positive), but that they do not agree as to what is hurtful (negative). By taking victims' perceptions into account, this study was able to compare the relative contributions of social reactions that were considered healing, social reactions that were considered hurtful, and the absence of social reactions. Results indicated that survivors who had someone believe their account of what happened or were allowed to talk about the assault--and considered these reactions to be healing-had fewer emotional and physical health problems than victims who considered these reactions hurtful, or victims who did not experience these reactions at all. Implications for future research on social reactions are discussed.