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Keywords:

  • sexual assault;
  • incest;
  • account-making;
  • confiding

Abstract

A study was conducted to evaluate the roles of account-making (i.e., story-like constructions involving explanations, reported memories, description, and emotional expression) and confiding in empathic others as facilitators of recovery for survivors of sexual assault. Twenty-five women and one man anonymously participated in a questionnaire study that asked them to provide accounts of instances of sexual assault, their own and others' reactions to the assault, and their perceptions of the impact of the assault on aspects of their lives. Respondents' reactions were coded and classified by independent raters. Consistent with parts of the theoretical conception, included among the findings were the following: (1) account-making was positively associated with successful coping and with helpful confidant reactions; (2) empathic confidant reactions occurring early after the assault led to more successful coping than did nonempathic reactions occurring either in the first twelve months or later after the assault; and (3) incest survivors indicated that they had more difficulty in coping and in their close relationships than did nonincest survivors. The data are discussed in terms of the value of story-construction activities and confiding as vital to the recovery process.