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Social Reactions to Rape Victims: Healing and Hurtful Effects on Psychological and Physical Health Outcomes

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Abstract

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.
... Sexuality is a central part of a person's overall wellbeing and identity, and may be affected by SVA and the key experiences surrounding it, such as social reactions to disclosure and emotions following SVA (e.g., stigmatization, fear, shame; Campbell, Ahrens, Sefl, Wasco, & Barnes, 2001;Coker et al., 2002). Although preliminary findings in a small sample suggest that women experiencing negative reactions to SVA disclosure report lower levels of sexual adjustment (i.e., lower sexual satisfaction and higher sexual difficulties; Therriault, Bigras, Hébert, & Godbout, 2020), the extent of the effects on multiple dimensions of sexuality and the mechanisms linking the social reactions to sexual outcomes were not examined. ...
... Some authors suggested that social reactions might have a greater impact on an individual's recovery than the disclosure itself (Scoglio, Lincoln, Kraus, & Molnar, 2020;Therriault et al., 2020). Positive social reactions may promote healing, as they are associated with more adaptive coping strategies (Ullman & Peter-Hagene, 2014) and lower psychological distress (Campbell et al., 2001;Coker et al., 2002). In contrast, negative social reactions are associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms (Orchowski, Untied, & Gidycz, 2013;Ullman, Filipas, Townsend, & Starzynski, 2007). ...
... Our results also show an important direct association between emotional support as a reaction to SVA and higher levels of sexual satisfaction, with a small effect size. This finding corroborates the results of prior studies reporting that social support from the entourage may help trauma victims' recovery (Campbell et al., 2001;Coker et al., 2002) and promote favorable outcomes, such as greater sexual satisfaction (de Montigny Gauthier et al., 2019). Providing emotional support might be empowering to the victims since it involves letting them express themselves and therefore giving them a feeling of control over their situation-which they could not have during their SVA experience. ...
Article
This study examined the mediating role of emotions related to sexual violence in adulthood in the associations between social reactions to sexual violence disclosure and sexual outcomes. Self-reported data were collected from 324 women reporting sexual violence and path analyses were conducted among the 264 women (81.5%) who disclosed their most recent sexual violence experience. Results showed that emotional support was associated with higher sexual satisfaction. Victim blame was associated with greater guilt related to the sexual violence, which, in turn, was associated with higher sexual compulsivity. Stigmatization was associated with greater shame related to the sexual violence, which, in turn, was associated with higher sexual distress and avoidance, and lower sexual satisfaction and function. Our findings highlight the importance of social reactions to sexual violence disclosure in women's sexuality.
... More recently, a body of literature has emerged that examines how victims perceived the reactions from their social networks (Davis et al. 1991;Campbell et al. 2001;Filipas & Ullman 2001;Ahrens 2006). These studies examine the perceptions sexual assault victims had of the reactions of their social networks. ...
... That is, if participants received negative reactions from professionals, friends, family, or peers, they were more likely to decide against reporting, and engage in self-blame (Ahrens 2006). Additionally, negative reactions were likely to cause participants to question if their experiences counted as a 'real rape' (Ahrens 2006 (Campbell et al. 2001). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
The following thesis considers the issue of reporting sexual victimization. The research asks: What factors contribute to a victim's decision not to report sexual assault to the police? The thesis utilizes the General Social Survey from 2009 examining data from those who reported being sexually assaulted between February of 2008 and February of 2009 (n=548). Cross tabulation analysis was run on the factors thought to influence decision making, against the reasons that people stated for not reporting their sexual assault to police. The perception of police bias by the victim, fear of revenge, and believing the incident was a personal matter were found to be significant in terms of the relationship to the offender as well as social networks. A multi-variate regression model was used in order to determine the odds ratios for a number of factors including the relationship of the offender, trust the victim has in family, whether or not they confided in social networks and their marital status. Results show that those who were assaulted by acquaintances or talked to medical personal were less likely to report, and those who were assaulted by family, talked to their families, or were married were more likely to report the assault. The findings of the study are consistent with the literature from the past thirty years in that victim blaming appears to still play a significant role in the decision to report to police or not. The research also indicates that social networks may play a critical role in the decisions of sexual assault victims, but ultimately concludes that this area is under researched and more research is needed.
... More recently, a body of literature has emerged that examines how victims perceived the reactions from their social networks (Davis et al. 1991;Campbell et al. 2001;Filipas & Ullman 2001;Ahrens 2006). These studies examine the perceptions sexual assault victims had of the reactions of their social networks. ...
... That is, if participants received negative reactions from professionals, friends, family, or peers, they were more likely to decide against reporting, and engage in self-blame (Ahrens 2006). Additionally, negative reactions were likely to cause participants to question if their experiences counted as a 'real rape' (Ahrens 2006 (Campbell et al. 2001). ...
Thesis
The following thesis considers the issue of reporting sexual victimization. The research asks: What factors contribute to a victim's decision not to report sexual assault to the police? The thesis utilizes the General Social Survey from 2009 examining data from those who reported being sexually assaulted between February of 2008 and February of 2009 (n=548). Cross tabulation analysis was run on the factors thought to influence decision making, against the reasons that people stated for not reporting their sexual assault to police. The perception of police bias by the victim, fear of revenge, and believing the incident was a personal matter were found to be significant in terms of the relationship to the offender as well as social networks. A multi-variate regression model was used in order to determine the odds ratios for a number of factors including the relationship of the offender, trust the victim has in family, whether or not they confided in social networks and their marital status. Results show that those who were assaulted by acquaintances or talked to medical personal were less likely to report, and those who were assaulted by family, talked to their families, or were married were more likely to report the assault. The findings of the study are consistent with the literature from the past thirty years in that victim blaming appears to still play a significant role in the decision to report to police or not. The research also indicates that social networks may play a critical role in the decisions of sexual assault victims, but ultimately concludes that this area is under researched and more research is needed.
... Cattaneo y Goodman (2010) reportaron que el empoderamiento de las víctimas dentro del sistema de justicia se relacionó con una mejora de los síntomas depresivos tras tres y seis meses de seguimiento. También se ha encontrado que las víctimas de violación que han sido creídas y escuchadas de una manera que ellas mismas han considerado terapéutica, tuvieron menos sintomatología emocional y física que aquellas que tuvieron interacciones negativas o que no tuvieron ningún tipo de interacción (Campbell et al., 2001). ...
... Rape is one of the most severe of all traumas, causing multiple, long-term negative outcomes, such as the PTSD, depression, substance abuse, suicidality, repeated sexual victimisation, and chronic physical health problems (Kilpatrick & Acierno, 2003;Koss, Bailey, Yuan, Herrera, & Lichter, 2003) (in Campbell, 2008. This crime has a devastating effect on victims' psychological and physical health, as saviours often experienced PSTD, depression and somatic symptoms (Campbell, Ahrens, Sefl, Wasco & Barnes, 2001). ...
Article
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Rape seems to be a traumatic event, with multiple effects on potential victims’ psychological, social, as well as physical levels, which can occur simultaneously at times. The noted effects of rape incidences may differ from one victim to the other. The qualitative research approach was deployed in this study to clearly understand human behavior from an insider’s point of view. This was aided by the Q-methodology research design to explore perspectives of the selected participants who represent different stances on this subject. This also allowed explorations of community members’ perceptions on the effects of rape in selected Mankweng areas, as an objective guiding this study. The data was collected in Mankweng through the applications of Focus Group Discussions (FGDs). About Thirty (30) participants were purposively sampled. The inductive Thematic Content Analysis (TCA) was used for analysis. This study presented that some victims of rape do experience symptoms such as; feelings of worthlessness, social isolation, resorting to substance abuse and persistent sadness and crying. To serve as an intervention to victims. For recommendations, training and refresher courses should be provided in the field of Criminology and Criminal Justice and professionals from the medical field on how to deal with rape victims. Relevant stakeholders should urgently readdress understanding the associated effects of rape on society and potential victims and programmes should be hosted within these communities to alert residents about the effects of rape in the Mankweng policing area.
... Research on positive reactions to disclosure is more limited and findings about positive reactions and recovery are mixed (Ahrens et al., 2007;Campbell, Ahrens et al., 2001a;Campbell, Dworkin, 2001b;DiMauro & Renshaw, 2021;Orchowski & Gidycz, 2015;Sigurvinsdottir & Ullman, 2016;. For example, Ullman and Peter-Hagene (2014) found that positive social reactions had a direct positive relation with PTSD, but an indirect negative relation with PTSD via increased perceived control over recovery, whereas Orchowski and Gidycz (2015) found no univariate associations between positive social reactions and PTSD, depression, or anxiety. ...
Article
The types of social reactions that victims receive when they disclose experiences of sexual assault are important for post-trauma recovery. Using a person-centered analytic approach, we identified latent profiles based upon the nature of two types of negative (turning against and unsupportive acknowledgment) and two types of positive (emotional support and informational/tangible aid) reactions received by 300 undergraduate women who disclosed sexual assault. Analyses identified four latent profiles characterized by (a) moderate emotional support/low negative reactions, (b) moderate emotional support/moderate negative reactions, (c) high positive/some unsupportive acknowledgment reactions, and (d) moderate positive/high negative reactions. Differences between the profiles in sexual assault acknowledgment, self- and perpetrator-blame, and some assault-related characteristics (victim injury but not victim or perpetrator intoxication) were identified. Group comparisons revealed that the two profiles characterized by greater negative reactions reported greater posttraumatic stress, whereas the profile characterized by moderate support/moderate negative reactions reported greater depression. No differences were identified for hazardous alcohol use. Findings highlight the importance of addressing negative reactions to sexual assault disclosure as potential barriers to recovery. Colleges may benefit from programming targeted at disclosure recipients as part of violence prevention efforts. A broader societal shift is also imperative to eliminate stigmatization of victims. Additional online materials for this article are available on PWQ’s website at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/03616843211038924 .
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Following a sexual assault, women experience a host of negative psychological consequences. While some survivors label their sexual assault experience as such (i.e., are acknowledged survivors), other survivors do not. The effect of acknowledgment of sexual assault on postassault outcomes has yielded mixed findings. It was hypothesized that social reactions may account for the relationship between acknowledgment status and psychological symptoms. Results indicated that acknowledged survivors reported more severe posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, which were partially accounted for by turning against social reactions. Future studies should explore the mechanisms responsible for these relationships and analyze the individual social reactions.
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Investigated fear reactions in rape victims for 1 yr following their assaults. 150 female victims, over 15 yrs of age, seen approximately 2 wks after the assault and at 1, 2, 4, 8, and 12 mo postrape, were compared with a matched control group of nonvictims seen at the same intervals. To control for the effects of repeated testing, 3 additional groups of victims were assessed only once at either 2, 4, or 8 mo postrape. All participants completed the Modified Fear Survey Schedule (MFS), which yielded a total fearfulness index as well as 6 subscale scores: rape fears, animal fears, classical fears, social–interpersonal fears, tissue-damage fears, and miscellaneous fears. Following the assault, victims were significantly more fearful than nonvictim controls as indicated by their overall MFS score and most of the subscale scores. Although their overall fearfulness declined somewhat and stabilized by 2 mo postassault, victims remained significantly more fearful than nonvictim controls at 12 mo postassault. The rape fears and classical fears subscales seemed to contribute most to this elevation. Results from the single-testing victim groups indicated that repeated assessment had no effect on participants' scores. (23 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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