Social reactions, self-blame, and problem drinking in adult sexual assault survivors

  • Sigurvinsdottir R
  • Ullman S
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Objective: The purpose of this study was to test a model of the relations of social reactions to sexual assault disclosure, self-blame, and problem drinking. This is the first study to investigate whether type of self-blame has different relationships with social reactions and problem drinking in a large, diverse sample of sexually assaulted women. These relationships are important to investigate to identify specific targets for treatment and intervention with sexual assault victims and their social networks. Method: Community-residing female sexual assault survivors (N = 1,863) in a large metropolitan area completed a mail survey about sexual assault, social reactions to disclosure, self-blame attributions, and problem drinking symptoms. Results: Structural equation modeling showed that characterological self-blame mediated the effect of negative social reactions on drinking, but behavioral self-blame did not function as a mediator. A second model showed unique relationships of specific positive and negative social reactions to drinking through characterological and behavioral self-blame. Conclusions: Characterological self-blame needs to be targeted in treatment and intervention with survivors, as it appears to be a key mechanism through which social reactions may influence recovery. Secondary prevention with informal social networks should educate people about social reactions to avoid negative reactions and promote those that are helpful so that people can better respond to survivors’ sexual assault disclosures and improve recovery. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved)(journal abstract)

Author-supplied keywords

  • community
  • problem drinking
  • rape
  • self-blame attributions
  • sexual assault

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