Term of Award

Summer 2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Department

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Klibert

Committee Member 1

C. Thresa Yancey

Committee Member 2

Nick Holtzman

Abstract

Sexual assault is a serious and increasing public health concern, which has spurred recent development of the #metoo movement (Miller, 2017; Sigurdsson, 2018). Much of the current literature and treatment emphasis focuses on how to bring survivors of sexual assault back to baseline functioning. This exclusive focus on stability models often neglects pathways by which survivors thrive and flourish following experiences with sexual violence. It is important to consider how sexual assault experiences relate to flourishing efforts. Self-compassion, or the ability to be open and non-judgmental about one’s own suffering and treat oneself with kindness in the face of pain, inadequacies, and failures, is linked with reductions in stress and increases in flourishing efforts after individuals encounter traumatic events (Neff, 2003a; Neff, Rude, & Kirkpatrick, 2007). However, it is unknown whether self-compassion explains variation within the sexual assault-flourishing relationship in a community sample of women. The current study sought to answer the following questions: (a) do significant relationships exist between self-reported sexual assault experiences, self-compassion, and flourishing? (b) does self-compassion buffer the effects of sexual assault on flourishing? and (c) are potential buffering effects delineated by specific aspects of self-compassion (self-kindness vs. common humanity vs. mindfulness)? The study utilized a cross-sectional, correlational design in which participants answered questions related to their experiences with sexual assault, self-compassion, and flourishing in an online survey format. Data were collected from a community sample of 511 women. Main and interaction effects of socioeconomic status and rurality were examined on the study’s main variables, with women from higher socioeconomic backgrounds reporting higher levels of self-compassion and flourishing compared to women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Importantly, more experiences with sexual assault were related to lower levels of reported self-compassion and flourishing scores. In terms of my moderated model, self-compassion did not moderate the relationship between sexual assault experiences and flourishing. These findings highlight the negative effects of sexual assault, especially regarding lower accrual of self-compassion and flourishing resources. However, it is important that future research efforts identify other factors that may better explain the conditional effects of sexual assault on flourishing.

Research Data and Supplementary Material

No

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