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The Impact of Sexual Violence on Intimate Relationship Dynamics: A Grounded Theory Study

Nicole M Lozano, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study intended to develop a theory that explains the relationship dynamics of opposite-sex married couples in which the female partner has been sexually victimized as an adult outside of the couple relationship. Four couples participated in the study sharing their experiences of disclosing the assault, communicating about the assault, physical intimacy, and salience of the assault to the relationship. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach the model emerged from the data. Overall, the women decided to disclose because they felt secure in their current intimate relationship. Disclosure happened for one of two reasons: (a) either to test the relationship and partner to make sure that it would last, or (b) because the women became overwhelmed emotionally thinking about the assault. The decision led to the response of both individuals in the relationship. General responses were positive for both parties, although there were nuanced pieces that were relative to the sex of the person. After the disclosure, the relationship changed, but it was difficult for the participants to define. The most salient change was in relation to physical intimacy and discussing the assault. Discussing the assault only occurred after the female partner was triggered for various reasons, including during sex. The findings are supported by previous literature in emotion focused therapy, attachment theory, shame resilience work, and rape myth acceptance research. Implications for counseling and future research directions are discussed.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Lozano, Nicole M, "The Impact of Sexual Violence on Intimate Relationship Dynamics: A Grounded Theory Study" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI3730812.