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Pathways to Help: Adolescent Sexual Assault Victims' Disclosure and Help-Seeking Experiences

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 21 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2015 Pages: 824-847
Rebecca Campbell; Megan R. Greeson; Giannina Fehler-Cabral; Angie C. Kennedy
Date Published
July 2015
24 pages

This study conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 adolescent sexual assault victims who sought post-assault help from the medical and legal systems, so as to understand these young survivors' disclosure and help-seeking processes.


Results revealed three distinct disclosure patterns and pathways to help-seeking. First, in the voluntary disclosure group, victims told their friends, who encouraged them to tell an adult, who then encouragedand assistedthe survivors in seeking help. Throughout this process, the survivors' disclosures at each step were within their control and reflected their choices for how to proceed. Second, in the involuntary disclosure pattern, victims also first disclosed to friends, but then those friends told adults about the assault, against the survivors' wishes; the adults made the victims seek help, which was also against the survivors' preferences. Third, in situational disclosures, the survivors were unconscious at the time of the assault, and their friends disclosed and sought help on their behalf. This study also examined how these initial disclosure patterns related to victims' continued engagement with these helping systems. (Publisher abstract modified)