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J Trauma Stress. 2013 Feb;26(1):119-24. doi: 10.1002/jts.21778.

Dangerous safe havens: institutional betrayal exacerbates sexual trauma.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA. carlys@uoregon.edu

Abstract

Research has documented the profound negative impact of betrayal within experiences of interpersonal trauma such as sexual assault (Freyd, 1994, 1996; Freyd, DePrince, & Gleaves, 2007). In the current study of college women (N = 345, 79% Caucasian; mean age = 19.69 years, SD = 2.55), we examined whether institutional failure to prevent sexual assault or respond supportively when it occurs may similarly exacerbate posttraumatic symptomatology-what we call "institutional betrayal." Almost half (47%) of the women reported at least one coercive sexual experience and another 21% reported no coercion, but at least one unwanted sexual experience (total reporting unwanted sexual experiences, N = 233). Institutional betrayal (e.g., creating an environment where these experiences seemed more likely, making it difficult to report these experiences) was reported across different unwanted sexual experiences (47% and 45% of women reporting coercion and no coercion, respectively). Those women who reported institutional betrayal surrounding their unwanted sexual experience reported increased levels of anxiety (R(2) = .10), trauma-specific sexual symptoms (R(2) = .17), dissociation (R(2) = .11), and problematic sexual functioning (R(2) = .12). These results suggest that institutions have the power to cause additional harm to assault survivors.

PMID:
23417879
DOI:
10.1002/jts.21778
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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