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Study Finds Agencies Can React More Supportively Than Family and Friends to Victims' Disclosures of Sexual Assault

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2018
2 pages
This paper summarizes the findings of a study that examined sexual assault victims' perceptions of how others reacted to victims' disclosures of having been sexually assaulted, with a view toward devising and testing a modified Social Reactions Questionnaire (SRQ).
The main finding of the study was that individuals close to the victim may be less supportive than others at the time a sexual assault is disclosed. Victims reported receiving more negative reactions from informal supporters (family members and friends) than they experienced when disclosing their victimization to police or community-based service providers. Generally, informal disclosures to family and friends failed to yield tangible aid and helpful information to the victim. These findings indicate the need to provide community-coordinated support services by persons specially trained to provide helpful emotional support and guidance. Another key finding was that victims who reported higher levels of fear were less likely to disclose sexual assaults to law enforcement; however, victims who disclosed their sexual assault initially to community-based survivors were more likely over time to also report their victimization to law enforcement. Out of all victim participants who reported disclosing their victimization to a community service provider, members of sexual minorities (lesbian, bisexual, asexual) were less likely than other victims to have also reported the assault to law enforcement. A total of 228 respondents, ages 18 to 62, participated in the study. Respondents reported multiple types of sexual victimization, with 79 percent reporting at least one forcible rape. A multilevel confirmatory factor analytic approach was used to analyze SRQ items.

Date Published: October 1, 2018