Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Dawn M. Szymanski

Committee Members

Dawn Szymanski, Joe Miles, Gina Owens, Donna Braquet


In the current study, we investigated potential direct, indirect, and moderated relations in the links between exposure to sexual violence and PTSD symptom severity and depression among a sample of 440 United States women who had experienced sexual assault in adulthood. We found that sexual violence exposure was both directly and indirectly related to PTSD symptom severity via less trauma coping self-efficacy, greater behavioral and characterological self-blame, and more shame. Sexual violence exposure was also indirectly related to depression via the same explanatory variables, except for behavioral self-blame. Contrary to our hypotheses, results indicated that involvement in anti-sexual activism and feminist identification did not buffer the direct and indirect links between exposure to sexual violence and PTSD symptom severity and depression. However, we found that involvement in anti-sexual assault activism was associated with greater coping self-efficacy and higher depression, and feminist identification was associated with less self-blame and shame. Results from this study may inform clinical interventions for survivors of sexual violence and improve overall care for this population.

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