Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Sarah Lowe


A significant number of individuals who experience a form of sexual violence that could be classifiable as rape or sexual assault do not label their experience as such. Studies found that rape acknowledgement status can impact a survivor’s postassault experiences and recovery process. This study examined how a sample of 236 college students who experienced some form of sexual violence labeled their experience. The association between different degrees of acknowledgement and posttraumatic stress and depression symptoms was tested. 162 (68.6%) of respondents did not label their experience as unwanted; the remaining 74 (31.4%) varied in their labeling of the experience as unwanted, non-consensual, sexual assault, or rape. After accounting for the type of sexual violence experienced, the tactics used by the perpetuator, and frequency of lifetime victimization events, individuals reporting higher degrees of acknowledgement experienced greater levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms. This finding suggests that clinicians and service providers working with victims of sexual violence should be aware of the relationship between acknowledgement and mental health consequences to inform treatment approach. Further research is needed to understand how acknowledgement relates to different aspects of the recovery process and whether these patterns are consistent among different demographic groups.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access