Social reactions to sexual assault victims from various support sources

Violence Vict. 2001 Dec;16(6):673-92.


This study examined positive and negative social reactions received by 323 victims disclosing sexual assaults to informal and formal support providers. Analyses of both quantitative and qualitative data indicated that both positive and negative reactions are commonly received by victims disclosing their assaults to others, but that victims seeking help from formal support sources are more commonly faced with negative reactions of victim blame, stigmatizing responses, and controlling reactions from others. Qualitative analysis of written responses provided by respondents also revealed other less common but unhelpful reactions of assault disclosure such as rape myths, violations of the victim's confidential disclosures, and revictimization. Preliminary analyses of the effects of specific reactions on adjustment from different types of support providers suggested that reactions of friends are particularly important for recovery. Positive reactions from friends appear to be more helpful, whereas negative reactions appear to be harmful from both informal and formal support sources. Implications for research and treatment of sexual assault victims are discussed.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chicago
  • Female
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humans
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Rape / psychology*
  • Social Support*
  • Stereotyping