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Rape Acknowledgment and Sexual Minority Women's Mental Health and Drinking Behaviors.

Research paper by Jessica A JA Blayney, Amy A Hequembourg, Jennifer A JA Livingston

Indexed on: 19 Jun '18Published on: 19 Jun '18Published in: Journal of interpersonal violence



Abstract

Adult sexual assault (ASA) has been linked to numerous negative psychological and behavioral outcomes. Recent research suggests that postassault adaptation may differ based on how the victim conceptualizes their ASA. For instance, women who label their rape experiences as such (i.e., acknowledged rape victims) report worse mental health symptoms than women who do not (i.e., unacknowledged rape victims). To date, this literature has focused exclusively on heterosexual women. Relative to heterosexuals, sexual minority women (SMW) are at greater risk for sexual assault and report worse postassault outcomes, yet little is known about rape acknowledgment in this at-risk population. Moreover, it is unclear how distal factors, such as childhood sexual abuse (CSA), may influence SMW's rape acknowledgment following ASA. A total of 205 self-identified lesbian and bisexual women were categorized into four groups (no ASA, ASA that did not involve rape, rape acknowledged, rape unacknowledged) and compared across mental health and drinking outcomes. Roughly, 42% of the sample experienced rape, and of those, 60% were acknowledged rape victims. Results revealed no statistical differences between acknowledged and unacknowledged rape victims in terms of mental health or alcohol use. However, relative to comparison groups, SMW who were acknowledged rape victims reported greater mental health symptoms, and both acknowledged and unacknowledged rape victims reported greater hazardous drinking. Among SMW with rape histories, greater CSA severity increased the probability of acknowledging rape. These findings provide valuable information regarding SMW's postassault adaptation and can contribute to interventions to assist SMW who experience sexual assault.