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  • Darcy McMullin and Jacquelyn W. White, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

  • Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Mental Health (R01MH45083) and the National Institutes for Justice (98WTVX0010).

  • The first author was awarded the American Psychological Association Division 35 graduate student research award for this article.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jacquelyn W. White, Department of Psychology, 293 Eberhart Building, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170. E-mail:


Research has found that approximately half of women who report an experience that meets the legal definition of rape do not label it rape. It has been assumed that labeling the experience as rape is necessary and beneficial for recovery; however, conflicting findings have been reported. In the present study, a longitudinal design was utilized to examine the long-term consequences of being a rape victim and of labeling the experience as rape. Assessments were obtained at two time points approximately 10 months apart from females in their first year of college. Participants were classified as nonvictims, victims who labeled the experience as rape, or victims who did not label the experience as rape. Results showed that there were negative effects of being raped, such as more psychological distress and increased alcohol use; however, few differences were found at either assessment based on rape victims' labeling of the experience.