Research shows that PTSD and problem drinking are common sequelae experienced by women victims of adult sexual assault, yet the role of social support in understanding these outcomes is still unclear. The proposed project builds on the PI's prior research by testing a theoretical model of relations between social support received by sexual assault victims and their post-assault adjustment, including PTSD, problem drinking, and positive adaptation, which is a novel aspect of this project. Approximately 1,832 women who (a) experienced either attempted or completed rape and (b) disclosed their experience to at least 1 informal support provider will be recruited from the local community, universities, and victim service agencies to complete a series of 4 mail surveys, distributed at 6-month intervals over the course of 2 years. We propose to investigate how women's experiences of general and assault-specific social support relate to their coping and behavioral responses and post-assault adjustment over time. Second, we propose to examine the prospective influence of women's experiences of social support on risk for sexual and nonsexual revictimization, and whether such effects are mediated by women's coping and behavioral responses and post-assault adjustment. We will also examine how revictimization influences women's subsequent coping and behavioral responses and post-assault adjustment. Further, for the first time, we will compare these processes in victims of alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related sexual assaults. Finally, qualitative data gleaned from interviews with victims and an informal support provider will yield a new understanding of how social support influences victims'post-assault adjustment and whether there are differences as a function of whether the victim is a problem drinker and whether alcohol was involved in the assault.

Public Health Relevance

Sexual assault is a serious public health issue that affects approximately 25% of American women (Bachar &Koss, 2001;Russell &Bolen, 2000;Tjaden &Thoennes, 1998). This crime can result in both physical injuries and psychological symptoms, including PTSD and alcohol abuse problems (Foa &Riggs, 1993;Resick, 1993). The proposed longitudinal study will examine how victims'experiences of general and assault-specific social support relate to their coping and behavioral responses, post-assault adjustment, and risk for revictimization, as well as whether relations between these factors differ depending on whether the victim was drinking prior to being assaulted. Results of this study could be used to inform the development of specialized interventions to improve sexual assault victims'recovery, tailored specifically to victims of alcohol-related and non-alcohol- related sexual assaults, as well as prevention programs designed to reduce the incidence of revictimization.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
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Community Influences on Health Behavior (CIHB)
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Freeman, Robert
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University of Illinois at Chicago
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Relyea, Mark; Ullman, Sarah E (2015) Measuring social reactions to female survivors of alcohol-involved sexual assault: The Social Reactions Questionnaire-Alcohol. J Interpers Violence 30:1864-87
Peter-Hagene, Liana C; Ullman, Sarah E (2014) Social reactions to sexual assault disclosure and problem drinking: mediating effects of perceived control and PTSD. J Interpers Violence 29:1418-37
Ullman, Sarah E (2014) Correlates of Posttraumatic Growth in Adult Sexual Assault Victims. Traumatology (Tallahass Fla) 20:219-224
Ullman, Sarah E; Peter-Hagene, Liana (2014) Social Reactions to Sexual Assault Disclosure, Coping, Perceived Control and PTSD Symptoms in Sexual Assault Victims. J Community Psychol 42:495-508
Ullman, Sarah E; Peter-Hagene, Liana C; Relyea, Mark (2014) Coping, emotion regulation, and self-blame as mediators of sexual abuse and psychological symptoms in adult sexual assault. J Child Sex Abus 23:74-93
Adofoli, Grace; Ullman, Sarah E (2014) An Exploratory Study of Trauma and Religious Factors in Predicting Drinking Outcomes in African American Sexual Assault Survivors. Fem Criminol 9:208-223
Ullman, Sarah E; Relyea, Mark; Peter-Hagene, Liana et al. (2013) Trauma histories, substance use coping, PTSD, and problem substance use among sexual assault victims. Addict Behav 38:2219-23