Abstract: Posttraumatic Growth Among Adult Women Sexual Assault Survivors (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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741P Posttraumatic Growth Among Adult Women Sexual Assault Survivors

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Wan-Jung (Wendy) Hsieh, LICSW, PhD student, university of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, IL
Rachel Garthe, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Robyn Gobin, PhD, Assistant Professor, UIUC, IL
Shuo Xu, PhD, Doctoral Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Background: Sexual violence is a severe public health concern that affects more than 23 million women each year in the United States. Previous research has examined the adverse psychological outcomes associated with sexual assault, primarily focusing on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, recent research has shifted from a pathological focus, revealing that sexual assault survivors (SAS) may experience positive change following a traumatic event, which is referred to as posttraumatic growth (PTG). Still, there is little known about the development and longitudinal changes in PTG following sexual assault. This study aims to longitudinally examine the level of PTG among female adult SAS, using growth mixture modeling to explore heterogenous trajectories of PTG.

Methods: Secondary data analyses were utilized in the current study, using data from a four-wave study that examined social reactions to sexual assault disclosure (2013-2016). Participants included 228 women who experienced sexual assault within the past year was analyzed in the study. Data cleaning and preparation took place in SPSS; descriptive statistics were conducted to examine PTG across the four time points. Growth Mixture Model (GMM) analyses were utilized to identify distinct PTG trajectories (across four time points spanning 12 months) among sexual assault survivors. An unconditional GMM of PTG was specified by comparing model fit statistics, comparing one to four class trajectories. GMM analyses were conducted in Mplus (version 8.1).

Results: Across the four time points, women experienced average levels of PTG with high variability (T1 Mean = 52.38, SD = 23.37; T4 Mean = 55.96, SD = 26.21). The GMM analyses included testing latent growth models and latent class analyses, both of which demonstrated the best model fit with linear trajectories and three classes. Thus, the three-class model for GMM was selected, with linear trajectories specified (BIC = 5656.75, Entropy = .70). These three classes included: 1) an average-to-high PTG group at baseline (Intercept = 69.36) with maintained PTG across the four time points (Slope = -0.61; n = 131, 61%), 2) a PTG group that showed low PTG at Time 1 (Intercept = 32.65) that increased across the four time points (Slope = 10.56; n = 15, 7%), and 3) a low PTG group (Intercept = 34.45) that stayed low over time (Slope = -2.72; n = 70, 32%).

Conclusions and Implications: This study was among the first to longitudinally examine trajectories of PTG among a sample of female SAS. Findings support the notion that sexual assault trauma may cause more detrimental effects for survivors to experience actual growths following the trauma. For example, although a large number of women reported average to high levels of PTG, they did not report significant growths or changes beyond their initial levels of PTG. Additionally, 1 in 3 women reported low levels of PTG and did not see significant growths over time. Additional resources and long-term supports for this population may be beneficial. Further research is needed to understand what predicts PTG in this population.