Disclosure And Help Seeking

Disclosure and help-seeking behaviors following sexually assault are critical first steps in healing and recovery. Sexual assault victims have extensive postassault needs and may seek support from multiple formal social systems for assistance: Approximately 26% to 40% of victims report the assault to the police and pursue prosecution through the criminal justice system, 27% to 40% seek medical care and medical forensic examinations, and 16% to 60% obtain mental health services.1,2,35-37 Researchers also found that increased levels of distress symptoms predicted seeking social support from both informal and formal support networks.38 In a more recent study, research findings indicate that in terms of postassault outcomes, victims of multiple perpetrator sexual assaults were no more likely to disclose assault to anyone than single-offender victims.2 In this same study, individual and multiple assailant sexual assault victims did not differ in number of informal support sources told, but of disclosers, multiple perpetrator rape victims were more likely to report to police and medical authorities and to seek counseling postassault.2 Moreover, multiple perpetrator rape victims reported no differences in average positive social reactions received when disclosing assault but did receive more negative social reactions (M = 1.30) than individual rape victims (M = .98), t (1,780) = -5.22, p = .000.2 Given these findings, it is important to note that what happens in one instance of seeking support has implications for further help seeking and distress.

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