Problem drinking is rising among women and particularly prevalent in women with rape histories. PTSD is commonly associated with rape and often leads to problem drinking, particularly in women with sexual victimization histories. Social networks influence women?s risk for both problem drinking and rape recovery, with low social support being one of the biggest risk factors for PTSD. Thus, interventions are needed to improve support networks. Negative social reactions such as victim blame are commonly experienced by rape victims following disclosure and have negative mental and physical health effects. Support interventions typically focus on improving positive support, but not on reducing negative social reactions, and have yet to be developed for rape victims specifically. Thus, interventions are needed that focus on reducing negative social reactions that victims receive from their support networks. Even so, few studies of support dyads (i.e., a victim and a social network member) exist in the rape literature, so little is known about the dynamics of victims? disclosures to support providers. The proposed study will fill this gap by examining support processes from both victims? and support providers? perspectives in relation to adjustment of both parties. In addition, for the first time, it will use quantitative and qualitative dyadic data to: a) test a theoretical model of support- adjustment relations, and b) examine alcohol-specific social reactions in response to disclosure of alcohol-related assaults. A sample of victim-informal supporter (family, friend, or intimate partner) dyads will be recruited from the community to complete surveys and a subset of follow-up interviews. Women 18 or older, with past-year attempted or completed rape, who disclosed the assault, will be recruited. Victims will provide contact information for informal network members, who will then be contacted by the researcher to complete surveys about hearing about and responding to the sexual assault disclosure. A subset of victim-provider matched pairs will participate in follow-up interviews regarding alcohol/drug-related assaults. The proposed study has three aims.
Aim 1 : Social support from informal support providers following rape disclosures will be studied, including its effects on victims? adjustment (PTSD, depression, problem drinking/drug use).
Aim 2 : Perceptions of the provider?s assault-specific social support and dyad relationship quality from both victims and informal network members will be compared.
Aim 3 : Victims of alcohol-related rapes will be studied to determine if they are unique in terms of how support processes relate to their adjustment. Knowledge garnered from this study will lay the groundwork for development of a support intervention for rape victims and their informal support providers. Ultimately, such interventions have the potential to improve assault-specific social support (i.e., support received by victims disclosing rapes ) by (a) reducing related negative adjustment in victims; (b) reducing secondary traumatic stress for support providers; and (c) improving relationships between victims and informal support network members.

Public Health Relevance

Rape is a major public health issue affecting 20% of American women in their lifetimes and costing billions of dollars each year due to deleterious outcomes (e.g., problem drinking, depression, poor physical health) associated with these experiences. This proposed study examines the social support rape victims receive from specific members of their informal social networks to learn how to intervene to improve assault-specific social support to (a) reduce associated outcomes of PTSD, depression, and problem drinking and substance use for victims of both alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related rapes; (b) reduce secondary traumatic stress for informal support providers; and (c) improve relationships between victims and their informal support network members. The project is relevant to the NIAAA?s mission in targeting social networks in a high- risk population and studying dyadic processes in relation to victims? problem drinking and psychological symptoms in order to develop community-based interventions.

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 Study Section (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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