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Title:The process and context of help-seeking after sexual assault
Author(s):Dworkin, Emily Raphael
Director of Research:Allen, Nicole E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Allen, Nicole E.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Berenbaum, Howard; Greene, Jennifer; Kral, Michael; Newman, Daniel A.; Todd, Nathan
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
sexual assault
mixed methods
social contexts
social networks
Abstract:Sexual assault is a common experience that has been associated with a number of problematic psychosocial outcomes. To cope with the trauma of sexual assault and mitigate these negative outcomes, survivors may reach out for services and support. However, the responses that they receive vary in their quality and helpfulness. While a theoretical model of help-seeking from the sociology literature—the network episode model—calls attention to aspects of the social context in which help-seeking occurs and the sequence of steps that help-seekers may undertake, such a perspective is missing from the literature on help-seeking after sexual assault. Better understanding the process and context of these help-seeking experiences may inform strategies to improve help-seeking experiences for survivors. The current study involves mixed-method data collection and analysis from a large sample of undergraduates in order to address this gap in the literature. We investigated a) how the social contexts surrounding help-seeking are associated with whom is contacted for help and b) the association between help-seeking experiences and the likelihood of ending help-seeking. Results suggest that the structure of social networks (a measure of social context) is important to consider when understanding to whom survivors disclose sexual assault. In a mixed effects logistic regression, structural characteristics of the network (e.g., degree centrality, number of components) were significant predictors of the proportion of network members told as well as which network members received disclosures, above and beyond variables commonly associated with disclosure likelihood (e.g., social support, self-blame), which complement qualitative findings that characteristics of social networks can both facilitate and place limits on disclosure. Further, in an investigation of predictors of help-seeking dropout, we identified associations between characteristics of each contact with a responder (e.g., the degree to which responders communicated rape myths) and survivors’ likelihood of dropping out of help-seeking. After presenting these analyses, we summarize and interpret the results in light of the network episode model.
Issue Date:2016-04-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Emily Dworkin
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-11-10
Date Deposited:2016-08

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