Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Gilbert, Brenda


This study attempted to determine whether perceptions of reactions to disclosure are related to psychological and physical outcomes among individuals with a history of youth sexual abuse (YSA). It was expected that receiving more hurtful responses overall would be related to higher levels of internalizing, somatic, and PTSD symptoms. It was also predicted that perceptions of response to disclosure would predict psychological and physical outcomes beyond the influence of relevant abuse characteristics. Eighty-six female undergraduates recruited from a large Midwestern university completed a series of questionnaires assessing YSA, non-sexual trauma, depression, anxiety, PTSD, somatic symptoms, disclosure, and social reactions to disclosure. Results indicated that those who reported experiencing YSA had higher levels of psychological and physical symptoms than those who reported a non-sexual traumatic event. Also, those who reported receiving more hurtful responses to disclosure overall had higher levels of PTSD and internalizing and physical symptoms. However, this relationship was only true for survivors of YSA. In addition, response to disclosure predicted internalizing and physical symptoms beyond the influence of the duration of abuse, accounting for 23 percent of the variance. These findings suggest that many survivors of YSA may need psychological services, and that an important focus of treatment may be assessing and strengthening social support.




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