Murray State Theses and Dissertations

Abstract

Many agree that sexual assault is a common problem among females, but there is less agreement regarding how to label individuals who experience sexual assault. Most research has examined the connotations associated with the labels, most of which has associated “victim” with negative connotations and “survivor” with positive adjectives. Few studies empirically examine how individuals of sexual assault respond to these labels and how the labels relate to outcomes in these individuals’ lives. Unfortunately, individuals who have experienced an unwanted sexual encounter are at higher risk for developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Understanding how these individuals label themselves, and how the labels relate to possible outcomes associated with sexual assault, is important to improve outcomes for these individuals. The current study sought to examine what label (i.e., victim or survivor) individuals who have experienced an unwanted sexual encounter prefer, and how this label predicts PTSD symptom severity. Participants, who were recruited from SONA and other online formats, included 114 females (Mage = 25.46, SD = 9.95; 86% White). Results revealed that individuals in this sample identified as both “victims” (N = 60) and “survivors” (N = 54). Results of an ANCOVA indicated that when individuals labeled themselves, neither “victim” nor “survivor” predicted significant differences in PTSD symptom severity (F(1,111) = 1.01, p = .318). These results suggest that regardless of what label the individual identifies with, the outcomes of the traumatic event, specifically regarding PTSD symptomology, will not be affected. Additional exploration analyses, implications, and future directions will be discussed.

Year manuscript completed

2019

Year degree awarded

2019

Thesis Advisor

Marie Karlsson

Committee Chair

Marie Karlsson

Committee Member

Sean Rife

Committee Member

Tracey Garcia McCue

Committee Member

Angie Trzepacz

Document Type

Thesis

Available for download on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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