Department of Educational Psychology



J Soc Pers Relat. 2021 April 1; 38(4): 1131–1151. doi:10.1177/0265407520983930




Victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual assault (SA) commonly disclose their experiences to friends or family members, or within other personal relationships. Disclosure recipients’ responses to these disclosures are associated with victims’ mental health. Previous research has separately measured both actual responses to IPV/SA and anticipated responses to IPV/SA (e.g., response to a hypothetical scenario) from the perspective of disclosure recipients. Yet, little research has described the association between disclosure recipients’ anticipated and actual responses. The aim of the current paper was to use a prospective design to examine the association between disclosure recipients’ anticipated and actual responses to IPV/SA, including positive and negative social reactions, perceptions of victim responsibility, empathy, and confusion and ineffectiveness about how to respond. Participants (N = 126 college students aged 18–23; 70.6% women) answered questions about their anticipated responses to a hypothetical IPV/SA disclosure scenario, and then six months later answered the same questions about their actual responses to an actual disclosure of IPV/SA. Although most anticipated and actual responses were significantly associated, associations were moderate in size. Some associations were stronger for participants with a closer relationship to the victim, for participants who had their own victimization history, for women, and for men. Individuals can predict their responses to some degree, but are not totally accurate in doing so.