The relationships among self-blame, psychological distress, and sexual victimization

J Interpers Violence. 2006 May;21(5):597-611. doi: 10.1177/0886260506286842.


The primary purpose of this investigation is to assess the factor structure of survivors' attributions for previously experienced sexual assaults. Two hundred twenty-four female survivors of sexual assault responded to measures assessing attributions for past assaults, perceived avoidability of future assaults, frequency of past victimizations, and psychological distress. Factor analysis of the attributions measure suggested five underlying factors: perpetrator blame, characterological self-blame, situational factors and/or chance blame, behavioral self-blame, and societal blame. Results indicated that characterological self-blame, but not behavioral self-blame, was associated with negative outcomes, including increased psychological distress and increased frequency of past victimization. Although behavioral self-blame was associated with perceived avoidability of future assaults, it was not associated with lower psychological distress or reduced frequency of past victimizations.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • Female
  • Guilt*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Middle Aged
  • Midwestern United States
  • Rape / psychology*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Adjustment
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires