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Journal of Interpersonal Violence


Previous research has demonstrated the dramatic effect trauma can have on religiosity. This study sought to extend this understanding by examining how a specific trauma, rape, influences religious beliefs and behaviors as well as how religiosity influences acknowledgement of rape. Rape acknowledgement is the personal use of the label rape to describe such an experience. The process of acknowledgement and general recovery from rape can include dramatic questioning of one’s religious beliefs and marks an important potential point of intervention, especially given the majority of the US identifies as religious. A sample of 310 mostly Christian, college-aged women completed questionnaires about their personal religiosity, attitudes and beliefs, and trauma history. Results indicated those who experienced rape experienced significantly greater change in their religious beliefs compared to those who had experienced other types of traumas (p = .015). The relationship between rape acknowledgement and extrinsic religiosity was significantly mediated by ambivalent sexism (95% CI [.0016, .0694]) and the endorsement of rape myths about women lying about rape (95% CI [.0021, .0691]), such that high religiosity was associated with greater acceptance of these beliefs, which was associated with a lower likelihood of acknowledgement. In all, rape was shown to significantly alter one’s participation in their religion and their understanding of their own religiosity, and religious beliefs reflective of certain beliefs fueled a mislabeling of personal experiences of rape. These findings suggest religious guidance should be offered within rape recovery programming, and support for those who experience rape should be provided specifically within religious settings.





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