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Resilience to Adult Revictimization Among Survivors of Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault

Shaina A Kumar, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Objective: A substantial number of women who experience sexual assault during childhood or adolescence are again sexually victimized as adults. Researchers have made considerable progress in understanding mechanisms that increase risk for adult revictimization, including posttraumatic stress symptoms stemming from child or adolescent sexual assault (CASA). By contrast, little attention has been given to factors that may buffer this link. Drawing on the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, interpersonal factors, such as social support, and intrapersonal factors, such as gratitude, self-compassion, and optimism, have the potential to reduce risk for revictimization among survivors. Method: We tested this possibility in a sample of 405 college women with a history of CASA, who completed questionnaires assessing baseline posttraumatic stress symptoms linked to CASA, social support, gratitude, self-compassion, and optimism, in addition to occurrences of sexual revictimization across the yearlong study period. Results: As expected, CASA survivors experiencing greater symptoms of posttraumatic stress are at greater risk for adult revictimization. Contrary to expectations, multilevel structural equation modeling techniques revealed that the association between posttraumatic stress symptoms at baseline and sexual revictimization across the 12-month study period was positively (rather than negatively) moderated by the protective factors; however, post-hoc analyses clarified the nature of this unexpected moderation effect. Specifically, for survivors who endorsed relatively low levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms, each hypothesized protective factor reduced risk for revictimization. Gratitude provided the greatest protection before losing its propensity for resilience based on regions of significance analyses. However, higher levels of social support, and to some degree gratitude, actually increased risk for revictimization among survivors with high levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms. Conclusions: Findings suggest social support, gratitude, self-compassion, and optimism can each encourage resiliency among survivors who are not experiencing elevated posttraumatic stress, but some factors conceptualized as serving a protective role might actually elevate risk in the context of high levels of posttraumatic stress. Researchers and clinicians should consider tailoring their recommendations and practice of strengths-based interventions among women CASA survivors, encouraging a balanced treatment approach aimed at both decreasing posttraumatic stress and boosting strengths to reduce rates of revictimization.

Subject Area

Psychology|Womens studies|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Kumar, Shaina A, "Resilience to Adult Revictimization Among Survivors of Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI30484729.