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J Interpers Violence. 2013 Jul;28(10):2005-23. doi: 10.1177/0886260512471085. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

Social reactions to disclosure of sexual victimization and adjustment among survivors of sexual assault.

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Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital, 146 West River Street, Suite 11B, Providence, RI 02904, USA.


How a support provider responds to disclosure of sexual victimization has important implications for the process of recovery. The present study examines the associations between various positive and negative social reactions to sexual assault disclosure and psychological distress, coping behavior, social support, and self-esteem in a sample of college women (N = 374). Social reactions to assault disclosure that attempted to control the survivor's decisions were associated with increased symptoms of posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety and lower perceptions of reassurance of worth from others. Blaming social reactions were associated with less self-esteem and engagement in coping via problem solving. Social reactions that provided emotional support to the survivor were associated with increased coping by seeking emotional support. Contrary to expectations, social reactions that treated the survivor differently were associated with higher self-esteem. Implications are discussed.


sexual victimization; social reactions

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