Researchers have documented links between women's perceptions of social reactions following sexual assault and trauma-related distress (e.g., self-blame, problem drinking, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms). The most commonly used measure to assess women's perceptions of social reactions is the Social Reactions Questionnaire (SRQ), though studies using this measure have been limited in important ways (e.g., primarily cross-sectional methods; no control for negative reporting biases; general instructions to think about reactions from "other persons told about the assault"). This research also sought to inform criminal justice practice and policy.
The primary project goals were as follows. First, the researchers addressed the need to understand social reactions of different actors following sexual assault. This project modified the SRQ instructions to ask participants to think about responses anchored to different groups (e.g., social support system members; criminal justice-based personnel; and community-based victim service providers). Second, the researchers addressed the need for research on social reactions with diverse women. This project assessed social reactions in a diverse sample of female sexual assault victims/survivors, while taking into account important control variables (e.g., characteristics of the sexual assault). Third, the researchers addressed the need for longitudinal research on social reactions. This project examined women's perceptions of social reactions longitudinally, including testing hypotheses about the inter-relationships among social reactions, victim well-being (e.g., psychological distress), and criminal justice variables (e.g., victim engagement with prosecution).
The researchers interviewed 228 adult women who experienced a sexual assault in the past year and disclosed it to someone such as a counselor, police officer, advocate, or health provider in the previous four months. Women were interviewed four times in 3-month intervals:
- Time 1: Baseline
- Time 2: 3 months after Time 1
- Time 3: 6 months after Time 1
- Time 4: 9 months after Time 1
The initial interview took 3 hours, then 3 follow-up interviews took 2 hours each. During the initial phone call, a research team member described the study as well as to explain that they were committed to recruiting an ethnically diverse sample of adult women. Researchers asked callers: 1) their age, and 2) their racial/ethnic group membership. Researchers asked women about their preferred mode of travelling to the University of Denver for an interview; if women at the time indicated a preference to do the interview closer to their homes, the researchers consulted a list of community-based sites that had agreed to provide the researchers a private room in which to conduct the interview.
At each interview, participants were greeted by a graduate-level interviewer. Participants (recent sexual assault victims/survivors) interacted one-to-one with a clinically-trained investigator conducting the interview. All interviews took place in a private room; a majority of interviews occurred at the University of Denver. At baseline (T1), interviewers presented consent information to participants in writing and verbally. Participants were informed that data would be stored by a code created by participants; participants would re-create this code at each interview, allowing the researchers to connect data over time without the use of identifying information in the data files. After hearing the consent information, participants were asked to answer several questions in a short "consent quiz" designed to ensure participants understood the consent information.
Researchers worked with agencies participating in the Sexual Assault Interagency Council (SAIC) to recruit 228 women who experienced a sexual assault in the past year that they disclosed to someone such as a counselor, police officer, or advocate in the previous 4 months (though the disclosure did not have to have been to law inforcement). SAIC agencies distributed study advertising materials (e.g., letters, flyers, web content) that clearly marked "Denver Women's Health Project" and indicated that the invitation to participate came from researchers who were independent from SAIC agencies. Recruiting materials mentioned that participatns would receive $50 for the baseline interview (T1), $55 for Time 2 (T2; 3 months); $60 for Time 3 (T3; 6 months); and $65 for Time 4 (T4; 9 months). Researchers also communicated that the study provided a cab ride to and from the interview, bus tokens, or $10 to offset car-related transportation costs. Interested participants would have the choice to either call a dedicated study line or sign a release to allow the SAIC agency to give their name and contact information to the researchers.
To ensure adequate participants to compare ethnic groups, researchers recruited participants in the following proportions: 25 percent Non-Latina/Non-Hispanic White; 25 percent African-American; 25 percent Latina/Hispanic; and 25 percent Asian-American/Native American/Pacific Islander (though participants could belong to more than one minority group). The sample included only women, aged 18 and older, as the research questions were centered on women's social reactions to sexual assault. Recruiting women from diverse ethnic backgrounds allowed the researchers to address research questions about social reactions across groups.
Actual study participants (N=228) ranged in age from 18 to 62. Women reported their racial/ethnic backgrounds to be 68 percent White or Caucasian, 20 percent Black or African American, 17 percent Hispanic or Latina, 3 percent Asian, 2 percent Pacific Islander, 9 percent Native American or Alaskan Native, and 5 percent other (total percentage is greater than 100 percent because women could endorse more than one racial/ethnic identity). Women's highest level of education was: 9 percent some high school, 17 percent high school graduate/GED, 50 percent some college or equivalent (e.g., technical degree), 18 percent two-year Associate's degree, and 12 percent four-year college degree or beyond. Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of women identified with a sexual minority group (e.g., lesbian, bisexual).
English-speaking/writing (or bilingual) women, aged 18 and older, who experienced a sexual assault in the past year that they disclosed to someone such as a counselor, police officer, advocate, or health provider (the disclosure does not have to have been to law enforcement).
Variables included in the data collection include data obtained during all four (three-month) intervals: T1 (Baseline), T2 (3 months after T1), T3 (6 months after T1), and T4 (9 months after T1). Variables relate to a modified version of the Social Reactions Questionnaire (SRQ) survey instrument.
The data collection was merged from Qualtrics and Excel into an SPSS file. Scale scores were calculated for measures including scales; scale scores were saved as new variables so that all original data would be maintained. Variables included are both original and intermediate (calculated).
- Time 2 (T2): 80 percent
- Time 3 (T3): 73 percent
- Time 4 (T4): 75 percent
- Personal Dimensions of Difference: A Self-Assessment of Social Identity
- Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL)
- Trauma History Questionnaire (THQ)
- Sexual Experiences Survey, Short-Form Victimization (SES-SFV)
- Trauma Appraisal Questionnaire (TAQ)
- Social Reactions Questionnaire (SRQ)
- Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale (PDS)
- Institutional Betrayal Questionnaire (IBQ)
- Beck Depression Inventory II
- MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status - Community Ladder
- MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status - SES Ladder
- Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)
- Future Events Scale (FES)
- Post Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI)
- Dissociative Experiences Scale