Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2012, $499,813)
Researchers using the Social Reactions Questionnaire (SRQ; Ullman, 2000) have documented links between womens perceptions of social reactions following sexual assault and trauma-related distress (e.g., self-blame, problem drinking, and PTSD symptoms). The SRQ has been used primarily with female sexual assault victims with instructions to think about reactions from other people told about the assault. Research has generally relied on cross-sectional methods and assumed that social reactions lead to trauma-related outcomes. Reliance on cross-sectional methods has impeded testing assumptions about directionality (e.g., trauma-related distress might increase negative social reactions from others). Further, links between victims' reports of negative social reactions and distress might reflect an overall negative reporting bias. Given the importance of understanding social reactions to sexual assault victims as well as the growing use of the SRQ, Ullman (2010) called for research that is longitudinal; considers potential negative reporting biases; and examines whether trauma-related distress may also contribute to social reactions.
This proposal addresses Ullman's (2010) call as well as additional goals that will advance ways that the SRQ is used to inform criminal justice practice and policy. Goal 1 addresses the need to understand social reactions of different actors following sexual assault. The research team will modify the SRQ instructions to ask participants to think about responses anchored to three groups: 1.) social support system members (e.g., family/partners versus friends); 2.) criminal justice-based personnel (e.g., law enforcement, system-based advocates, prosecution); and 3.) community-based victim service providers (e.g., rape crisis personnel, medical personnel, counselors, community-based advocates). Goal 2 addresses the need for research with diverse women.
Extending preliminary work from their research group, they will examine whether women from diverse racial/ethnic groups, sexual orientations, and socio-economic statuses report different social reactions, controlling for characteristics of the sexual assault. Further, they will identify case and victim characteristics that predict positive and negative social reactions by social support system members, criminal justice-based personnel, and community-based victim service providers. Goal 3 addresses the need for longitudinal research. The research team will examine women's reports of social reactions to sexual assault longitudinally, testing hypotheses about the interrelationships among social reactions, victim well-being, and criminal justice variables (e.g., victim engagement).
Because the names and contact information of sexual assault victims are not matters of public record in Colorado (unlike other crimes), researchers have difficulty identifying and reaching victims shortly after sexual assault. This project involves a partnership with the Sexual Assault Interagency Council in order to recruit sexual assault victims in close proximity to the assault. Based on the demographics of similar samples recruited by this research team in collaboration with SAIC members, they anticipate the recruitment of 225 adult women (aged 18 and older) who are diverse with regard to race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. The team will use non-proportional quota sampling to ensure recruitment of equal numbers of women from ethnic groups for the purposes of inter-group comparisons. Participants will complete an initial 3-hour interview, and they will be invited for follow-up interviews at 3 time points to test longitudinal questions.ca/ncf
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