Effects of writing about rape: evaluating Pennebaker's paradigm with a severe trauma

J Trauma Stress. 2001 Oct;14(4):781-90. doi: 10.1023/A:1013098307063.


We examined the effect of disclosing to others an attempted or completed rape. Eighty-five undergraduate women who acknowledged attempted or completed rape wrote about their experience and read their narratives. In a 2 x 2 design, we examined the value of writing only factual information versus factual plus emotional information, and reading to oneself versus reading aloud to another woman. Before and 1-month after the task, symptoms of dysphoria, social anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder were assessed. Greater detail and a moderate level of personalization in the description of the trauma were associated with decreased symptoms of dysphoria and social anxiety. Neither the nature of the writing task nor the presence of another woman predicted degree of symptom reduction.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Rape / psychology*
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Verbal Behavior*