Exploring ambivalent rape acknowledgment and posttraumatic stress symptoms among college women who have experienced rape: What's in a name?


The present study explored rape acknowledgment among 131 college women survivors of rape utilizing three subgroups: acknowledged rape, unacknowledged rape, and ambivalent acknowledgment. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom clusters and parameters of victimization and were compared between the subgroups. Of the participants, 28.2 % were classified as ambivalent rape acknowledgment, 49.6 % as acknowledged rape, and 22.1 % as unacknowledged rape. Across all four PTSD symptom clusters, the ambivalent acknowledgment group had significantly higher PTSD symptoms than the unacknowledged group. With the exception of hyperarousal symptoms, PTSD symptoms did not differ between the acknowledged and ambivalent acknowledgment groups. With regard to potential group differences in exposure to various rape tactics (i.e., physical force, threat, incapacitation), the acknowledged group indicated (a) exposure to a greater number of rape tactics relative to the other groups, (b) higher likelihood of endorsing rape via threat than the ambivalent acknowledgment group, and (c) more frequent endorsement of forcible rape than the unacknowledged group. Results are discussed in light of screening methods to assess for PTSD symptoms among rape survivors, as well as the recent changes to the Title IX law regarding sexual misconduct reports on college campuses.

Publication Title

Journal of Anxiety Disorders