Following sexual assault a substantial number of victims will go on to develop psychopathology, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or alcohol use disorders (AUD), and development of these disorders is costly to both the victim and society as a whole. Intervening early with victims of assault has the potential to provide individuals with theoretically based coping strategies that could be beneficial in decreasing risk of developing chronic psychopathology. Cognitive approaches for treating symptoms of PTSD and alcohol misuse following sexual assault are targeted at intervening with chronic presentation of symptoms. Less is known about effective strategies for intervening acutely following sexual assault to change maladaptive trauma related and alcohol related beliefs. This project is designed to adapt existing empirically supported cognitive treatment principles for both PTSD and AUD symptoms to be delivered in a brief one session format in the 6 weeks following sexual assault. In the intervention refinement phase we will utilize an iterative process to incorporate (1) expert feedback on cognitive strategies and intervention targets immediately following assault; (2) provider feedback on implementing strategies and feasibility of intervention approaches; and (3) feedback from participants in a small open trial (n = 6) to create and modify a brief cognitive treatment protocol. In the pilot testing phase, we will partner with university ad community agencies to recruit 38 women to complete the one session intervention followed by 4 once per week coaching calls on using the cognitive strategies. This brief intervention group will be compared to a group of 38 women who receive weekly symptom monitoring only to provide information on the efficacy of the intervention compared to the natural recovery process. This research is significant in its potential to use targeted prevention to decrease the development of chronic psychopathology in a high risk group of individuals.

Public Health Relevance

Sexual assault is a substantial problem in the US and leads to devastating health consequences and public health costs. Intervening early after sexual assault may help decrease the development of chronic psychopathology, particularly PTSD and alcohol misuse. Developing evidence based interventions that can be delivered in a time efficient manner and promote recovery following assault could significantly impact the public health burden of sexual assault.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Planning Grant (R34)
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Study Section
Neuroscience Review Subcommittee (AA)
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Roach, Deidra
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University of Washington
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Kaysen, Debra; Bedard-Gilligan, Michele; Stappenbeck, Cynthia A (2017) PTSD and Alcohol Associations Among Trauma-Exposed Women: Critical Questions for the Field. Clin Psychol (New York) 24:23-26
Rhew, Isaac C; Stappenbeck, Cynthia A; Bedard-Gilligan, Michele et al. (2017) Effects of sexual assault on alcohol use and consequences among young adult sexual minority women. J Consult Clin Psychol 85:424-433