Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




In order to understand more fully the process of recovery from sexual assault, this study investigated the variables considered to be influential in that process, including the age of the victim, her marital status, the time elapsed since the assault, who the perpetrator was, and where the assault took place. In addition, the victim's beliefs about sexual assault were also assessed, using the Feminist Attitude Toward Rape Scale, as were her perceptions of society's beliefs. Recovery was evaluated using the Beck Depression Inventory, the Modified Fear Survey, and the Derogatis Symptom Check List.

The subjects were 30 women, ages 18 to 55, who had been sexually assaulted within the preceding 5 years. The control group consisted of 30 women, matched for age and education, who had no reported history of sexual molestation or assault.

The victim group differed significantly from the control groups on all measures, indicating that they were experiencing greater depression, more rape-related and general fears, more psychiatric symptoms, and greater overall distress. The victim group also scored higher on the Feminist Attitude Toward Rape Scale, suggesting less "traditional" and more "feminist" attitudes when compared to the control group.

Age was found to be the major factor predictive of recovery, with older women reporting less depression and fewer symptoms and fears than younger women. Time elapsed since the assault was also a significant factor in recovery but only when the influence of the stranger/acquaintance variable was removed and then only in the number of psychiatric symptoms reported. In addition, time was observed to interact with the stranger/acquaintance variable although not to any significant degree.

The attitudinal variable, as measured by the Feminist Attitude Toward Rape Scale, did not correlate directly with recovery, as had been predicted, but was related to depression and the number of psychiatric symptoms reported when viewed in conjunction with elapsed time, age, and marital status. The victims' perceptions of society's attitudes toward or beliefs about rape did not appear to be a factor in her recovery.