Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Antonia Abbey


Previous research shows that women often experience stigmatization following sexual assau#60; however, few studies have investigated mechanisms through which stigmatization adversely affects health. In Study 1, women (N = 974) completed an online survey which assessed their history of sexual assault, stigmatization, recovery processes, and health outcomes. Results partially supported theoretical models whereby sexual assault survivors’ stigmatizing social reactions and internalized stigmatization indirectly contributed to physical health symptoms, hazardous drinking, and disordered eating through effects on secrecy, avoidance coping, thought suppression, and depressive symptoms. In Study 2, sexual assault survivors (N = 400) completed an online experimental study and were exposed to a stigmatization manipulation. The sexual assault stigma condition, as compared to a control and a support condition, elicited higher levels of negative affect following the manipulation. Experimental condition interacted with survivors’ usual coping motives to predict drinking and eating outcomes. Sexual assault stigma predicted more alcohol craving and drinking intentions among women who reported more drink to cope motives. In addition, sexual assault stigma predicted more unhealthy eating intentions among women who reported more eating to cope motives. Findings from these studies demonstrate the importance of stigmatization in shaping survivors’ coping and recovery and have implications for clinical treatment and intervention efforts. Assessing and intervening in stigmatization is particularly important for preventing deleterious health consequences of sexual assault.