SOCIAL REACTIONS, COPING STRATEGIES, AND SELF-BLAME ATTRIBUTIONS IN ADJUSTMENT TO SEXUAL ASSAULT

Authors

  • Sarah E. Ullman

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Criminal Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago
      Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Sarah E. Ullman, Department of Criminal Justice (M/C 141), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 West Harrison Street, Chicago, IL 60607-7140. Electronic mail may be sent to: seullman@uic.edu.
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  • This research was supported by a grant from the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, a postdoctoral fellowship to Sarah E. Ullman (MH 15750), and grants from the University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Social Science Research and Campus Research Board. I thank Judy Siegel, Chris Dunkel-Schetter, Grace Woo, and Pam Feldman for their suggestions in designing the survey instrument; Shirin Nazma for research assistance; and Jacki Golding, Judy Richman, and Grace Woo for helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Sarah E. Ullman, Department of Criminal Justice (M/C 141), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 West Harrison Street, Chicago, IL 60607-7140. Electronic mail may be sent to: seullman@uic.edu.

Abstract

The present study investigated the impact of social reactions of others to sexual-assault victims on disclosure of their victimization. A convenience sample of adult sexual-assault victims (N = 155) completed a mail survey in which they reported information about their sexual assaults and postassault experiences. As expected, all negative social reactions were strongly associated with increased psychological symptoms, whereas most positive social reactions were unrelated to adjustment. The only social reactions related to better adjustment were being believed and being listened to by others. Victims experiencing negative social reactions also reported poorer adjustment even when other variables known to affect psychological recovery were controlled. Avoidance coping mediated the association of negative social reactions with adjustment. Implications of these findings for research and treatment of sexual-assault survivors are discussed.

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