Predicting the effects of sexual assault research participation: Reactions, perceived insight, and help-seeking
This study examined effects of participating in survey research for women sexual assault survivors with other trauma histories to understand the role of study participation on perceived insight and long-term help-seeking behaviors. A diverse sample of 1,863 women from a large Midwestern city participated in a 3-year study on women’s experiences with sexual assault. Regression analyses were conducted to (a) examine predictors of immediate positive and negative reactions to survey participation and (b) assess the impact of the survey on perceived insight and women’s long-term help-seeking behavior. Overall, most women in the study had a higher positive than negative reaction to the survey (92%), with a significant proportion indicating they sought additional services as a result of participation (55%). Women with child sexual abuse (CSA), more emotion dysregulation, and more characterological self-blame had more negative reactions to the survey, whereas those with more education and individual adaptive coping had more positive reactions. Women who said they gained insight from answering survey questions were most likely to seek additional help. This study extends the literature by examining cumulative trauma and postassault symptoms in relation to the effects of survey participation. This is also the first study of women sexual assault survivors to find a relationship between gaining perceived insight from research and subsequent help-seeking. Participating in sexual assault research may help survivors gain greater insight into their recovery, which can lead them to seek out more resources for their ongoing trauma-related problems.