Rape is unfortunately a common experience among women, affecting between 13 and 20%. The experience of rape often has a significant psychological impact on victims. College women in particular have been found to have a high prevalence of rape (20%) and college rape victims have a high prevalence of current PTSD in connection to this experience (approximately 25%). Despite the existence of efficacious treatments for victims, the vast majority never seek out psychotherapy. One potential way to aid these victims is through online administered treatment. Thus, we propose to evaluate a self- paced, online cognitive-behavioral intervention for college women who have experienced rape and who have current PTSD. The intervention includes psycho-education about rape and PTSD, relaxation training, coping skills training, and cognitive restructuring. In addition, because the most successful extant online interventions for psychological distress have included therapist facilitation, the intervention also includes regular online (written and video) feedback from a study therapist regarding participants'utilization of program techniques. The program also utilizes video and audio clips and written examples of women modeling using the skills introduced. Specifically, we propose to randomize 86 women who have experienced rape to either the therapist facilitated online intervention or a psycho-educational website. Measures of PTSD symptomatology, anxiety, depression, rape-related coping, coping self-efficacy, and trauma-related cognitions will be collected at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and three-month follow-up assessments. In addition, information about program acceptability, therapeutic alliance, program utilization, and client satisfaction will be collected. It is hypothesized that individuals assigned to the therapist facilitated intervention will experience greater reductions in psychological symptomatology, maladaptive rape-related coping, and distorted rape-related cognitions than individuals assigned to the psycho-educational website. Individuals assigned to the therapist facilitated intervention will also report greater coping self-efficacy than individuals assigned to the psycho-educational website. The impact of this study is the development of an effective, user-friendly intervention that can be utilized by rape victims, including those who will not seek out traditional psychotherapy.

Public Health Relevance

Findings from this study will be highly relevant to public health and fall within the national health policy and priorities set by the NIH/NIMH Healthy People 2010. First, the online intervention being developed has the potential to ameliorate distress among rape victims, a highly prevalent traumatic event often associated with significant and persistent mental health problems, including PTSD. Second, the program also overcomes many barriers to seeking and obtaining treatment by delivering treatment over the Internet. Finally, because the treatment involves structured modules, it can rapidly be disseminated and adopted in the field.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Planning Grant (R34)
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Interventions Committee for Adult Disorders (ITVA)
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Pearson, Jane L
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East Carolina University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Littleton, Heather; Grills, Amie E; Kline, Katherine D et al. (2016) The From Survivor to Thriver program: RCT of an online therapist-facilitated program for rape-related PTSD. J Anxiety Disord 43:41-51
Drum, Katherine B; Littleton, Heather L (2014) Therapeutic boundaries in telepsychology: Unique issues and best practice recommendations. Prof Psychol Res Pr 45:309-315