The influence of video-modeled sexual assault narratives with salient appeals to the survivor identity on emerging adult women’s sexual assault disclosure efficacy

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For emerging adult women, sexual assault victimization is a prevalent problem that can lead to many negative physical and mental health outcomes. Disclosure of one’s sexual assault is often key for women to receive social support and access to resources that help mitigate negative health outcomes associated with being sexually assaulted, but women still face barriers to disclosure, including not feeling efficacious to disclose their assaults. For those who have experienced sexual assault, the survivor identity is characterized by having agency and being empowered to undergo a recovery journey, while the victim identity is characterized by a lack of agency, feelings of disempowerment, and an inability to move past their assault. Research has found that those who identify as survivors of sexual assault have more positive health outcomes and well-being than those who identify as victims of sexual assault. Modeled behavior, including models of the survivor identity, may be effective in encouraging emerging adult women to aspire to identify as survivors themselves, leading them to be more likely to have better health outcomes. Social cognitive theory, self-efficacy theory, sexual assault identity research, and narrative sensemaking were used as a theoretical framework to develop a conceptual model of the effect of a mediated sexual assault narrative type emerging adult women’s likelihood to identify as a survivor and efficacy to disclose a sexual assault. This conceptual model also accounted for other factors, including identification with the vlogger, coping efficacy, positive past disclosure experiences, past identification as a survivor, and feminist self-identification. A 1 x 4 quasi-experiment with four self-created media stimuli (i.e., a survivor vlog, a victim vlog, a chronological vlog, and a control vlog) was designed to test the conceptual model. Emerging adult women (n = 318) were recruited to participate in this study. Findings suggest that there was a significant mediated pathway between exposure to the survivor vlog, likelihood to identify as a survivor, and sexual assault disclosure efficacy. Findings also suggest that identification with the vlogger indirectly affected this relationship, such that those with moderate to high levels of identification reported more likelihood to identify as a survivor. This research has implications for practitioners and university administration tasked with creating media messages encouraging women to disclose their assaults. Mediated narratives with strong appeals to the survivor identity may be beneficial in encouraging sexual assault disclosure efficacy through modeling the survivor identity.

Embargo status: Restricted until 09/2027. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.

Sexual Assault, Disclosure, Survivor identity, Modeled Behavior, Health Messages, Stigma