Expanding the definition of rape acknowledgment and subsequent effects on risk sensitivity

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Casey May (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Blair Wisco

Abstract: Close to 20% of women experience attempted or completed rape at some point in their lifetime, yet it is estimated that 60% of rape victims would not acknowledge their experience as "rape," termed as "unacknowledged rape." Rape acknowledgment literature presents major limitations, such as only providing victims with yes/no responses to the question, "Have you been raped?" Presenting a dichotomy in the absence of other options forces participants into one of two categories, which likely causes victims to choose the less intense response. In the present study, participants provided a history of unwanted sexual acts and were then presented with various labels to describe their past experiences (i.e., "rape," "sexual assault," "a crime," "sexually violated," "a miscommunication," "an uncomfortable sexual experience," “a regret,” "a mistake"). Approximately half (52.1%) the sample experienced rape, defined as forced or coerced nonconsensual oral, vaginal, or anal penetration using a penis, fingers, or objects. Only 32.7% of rape victims acknowledged “rape” specifically, yet 77.9% of rape victims used at least one of the four labels acknowledging that they experienced sexual violence (i.e., rape, sexual assault, crime, sexually violated). I found that rape victims who acknowledged “rape” reported a higher frequency of unwanted sexual acts compared to those who generally acknowledged sexual violence and those who remained unacknowledged. Participants also engaged in a risk sensitivity task, in which they listened to an audio-recording of a hypothetical date rape and indicated when they felt the assailant had "gone too far." No definitions of acknowledgment predicted sensitivity to risk in the hypothetical vignette. Expanding the definition of acknowledgment may alter conversations surrounding rape, may impact future research on related outcomes, and may be addressed within a therapeutic setting using this additional knowledge.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2022
Rape, Rape acknowledgment, Risk sensitivity, Sexual assault, Trauma
Rape $x Psychological aspects
Rape victims $x Psychology
Risk perception

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