Category: Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders and Disasters
Keywords: Violence / Sexual Assault
Presentation Type: Symposium
Sexual contact that occurs without explicit consent is a far too common event, affecting 15-20% of adult women in the United States (Tijaden & Thoennes, 2000). Knowledge on the psychological aftermath of nonconsensual sex stems from studies asking victims to recall what occurred months or years ago. There are no studies capturing real-time reporting of sexual assault. As part of an ongoing research program on social behavior in daily life, we collected data on everyday sexual activity. Each night, we asked whether participants had an episode of nonconsensual sex. Using the subset who endorsed yes to this question, we conducted an in-depth prospective assessment of psychosocial functioning before and after nonconsensual sex.
We conducted a 3-week daily diary study with 152 college students. Eleven participants endorsed at least one episode of nonconsensual sex but four were removed because of questionable response patterns. Using the final sample (n = 7), we examined baseline functioning, and psychological experiences on the days before and after on: daily negative and positive affect, self-esteem, and emotion regulation (suppression, reappraisal, alcohol use). To examine reactions to nonconsensual sex, multilevel modeling was used with daily reports nested within people. Results suggest that victims had more emotional difficulties, experiential avoidance, and a history of more sexual activity at baseline. After being sexually assaulted, victims had more daily emotional and self-esteem difficulties, and less alcohol use and sexual activity. Despite these trends, a high level of heterogeneous reactions in sexual assault victims was found. We detail findings along with the methodological challenges of conducting this research, with suggestions for future research and practitioners.
Professor of Psychology
George Mason University
Sunday, November 19
10:15 AM – 11:45 AM
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