Category: Comorbidity - Substance Use and Other

Symposium

Cognitive Processing Alcohol-Involved Sexual Assault: An Application of Meaning-Making Theory

Friday, November 17
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Aqua Salon E & F, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Violence / Sexual Assault | Alcohol | Cognitive Processes
Presentation Type: Symposium

Sexual assault is most commonly experienced during young adulthood, a period that is marked by important developmental milestones and identity exploration. Also characteristic of this developmental period are high rates of alcohol use. Sexual assault and alcohol involvement in young adulthood are related; nearly ½ of sexual assaults involve alcohol. There is variability in how women adjust following an assault. Theory suggests that whether and how one makes sense of the event (i.e., meaning making) is critical to post-assault functioning. Victim alcohol use at the time of the assault may present particular challenges in meaning making; yet, this has not been well examined and as such, is an important gap in the literature that if filled, has the potential to inform interventions. Accordingly, in a sample of females (Mage 21.21, ~N=140) who have experienced a sexual assault in the past year, the present study applies meaning-making theory in a convergent mixed methods design to improve understanding of the role of victim alcohol use in post-assault adaptation. Quantitative (i.e., self-report measures) and qualitative (i.e., assault narrative and impact statement) methods were used to address the following three aims: 1) examine differences in meaning making based on assault type group (substance vs non-substance involved), 2) evaluate the role of peritraumatic variables (e.g., dissociation, resistance, trauma memory), and 3) test meaning making as a mediator of the association between assault type and post-assault functioning more broadly. Preliminary findings showed that approximately 60% of assaults involved victim alcohol use. The average PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL) score was 21.78 (SD = 18.96). Findings suggest that meaning making is significantly related to post-assault outcomes such as PTSD symptoms. This may have significant implications for illuminating the importance of meaning making and in substance-involved sexual assault outcomes in particular, as well as targeted inventions (e.g., Cognitive Processing Therapy), aimed at improving post-assault functioning in victims of sexual assault experienced during this important stage of development.

Sharon Radomski

Student
University at Buffalo

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