Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mental health professionals' attitudes toward rape survivors
by Pistorio, Jaclyn M. P., Psy.D., Adler School of Professional Psychology, 2015, 131; 3664152
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this dissertation is to examine licensed mental health professionals' attitudes towards rape survivors. Research indicates that the attitudes of police officers, mental health professionals, and the general public may influence the psychological adjustment of rape survivors and, consequently, whether or not that person seeks mental health treatment after the assault (Vincent, 2009). The negative impacts of rape on a person may not be specific only to the act of violence, but may also include secondary victimization from the survivors' negative experiences with authorities such as legal and mental health professionals (Campbell & Raja, 1999) who may hold negative beliefs about sexual assault and rape survivors (Nagel, Matsuo, McIntyre, & Morrison, 2005). Exposure to these negative beliefs held by others may be associated with negative secondary emotions in the survivor, such as guilt; guilt associated with actions taken or not taken in the context of rape has been observed to be positively correlated with posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, low self-esteem, social anxiety, and suicidal ideation (Kubany, Abueg, Owens, Brennan, Kaplan, & Watson, 1995). It is therefore important to examine the attitudes licensed mental health workers hold towards rape survivors, as these rape survivors may seek services from mental health professionals, and the clinicians' attitudes towards these clients' experiences may significantly impact survivors' recovery from a sexual assault. In addition to measuring the acceptance of rape myths in licensed mental health providers, this study aims to explore how demographic variables in mental health professionals, such as gender, type of graduate degree, or participant rape survivor status, are related to the attitudes participants report about sexual assault. It was hypothesized that male study participants would attribute greater responsibility to survivors than female study participants would, based on the results of the updated Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale, and congruent with published research highlighting this gender difference (Grubb & Harrower, 2009). It was hypothesized that mental health providers who have had more years of training in their graduate degree program would report lower levels of rape myth acceptance compared with those who had a shorter degree program. It was also hypothesized that participants who themselves identified as a rape survivor or who had a close friend or family member who is a survivor would attribute less responsibility to rape survivors, as research supports the observation that those who identify as survivors or friends of survivors may reject negative biases towards sexual assault survivors.

After completing both independent t-tests and Mann-Whitney U statistical analyses, gender identity was the only demographic for which statistically significant mean differences were seen in total rape myth acceptance scores (p = .012). This finding is not surprising, as much of the current literature supports that men, in general, attribute more blame to rape survivors than women. Prior to the current study there was no published research using licensed mental health providers as participants in a study using the updated Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale. Data gathered from the current study will therefore offer a valuable contribution to the literature on this topic. Further, it is hoped that this data can be used in the development of graduate programs, continuing education courses, and didactic seminars that debunk rape myths and promote competency around rape survivor issues.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Henning, Janna A.
School: Adler School of Professional Psychology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 77/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Counseling Psychology, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Rape, Rape myth acceptance, Rape survivor, Sexual assault, Sexual assault survivor, Victim blame
Publication Number: 3664152
ISBN: 978-1-339-14577-8
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