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Self blame in rape victims

a bibliography

Types of blame|Vulnerability factors|Avoidance coping|Control|Helpful counseling|Victim blame|Shame v/s guilt|Counterfactual thinking|Cognitive restructuring

Overview

Rape victims often blame themselves for the crime committed against them. Self blame is an avoidance coping skill which inhibits the healing process. This page discusses the different theories, aspects and recommended counseling strategies for understanding self blame.

For the abridged, more readable version see: Self blame for Survivors

There are two main types of self blame: Characterological and behavioral. Behavioral self blame refers to victims feeling they should have done something differently (therefore they feel it is their fault - undeserved guilt). Characterological self blame is when victims feel there is something inherently wrong with them (causing them to deserve to be assaulted). The later of the two (undeserved shame) results in more negative psychological effects than the former.

This is illogical thinking (known as counterfactual thinking) which can be remedied by a therapeutic technique known as cognitive restructuring. Basically that means sorting out thoughts that don't make sense and looking at the truth in a better light.

Example I

This is a behavioral self blame thought (undeserved guilt): 'It might have turned out better if I had done this other thing. I should have cooperated / I should have fought back.'

This is a more reasonable thought: 'I might have been hurt worse if I hadn't done what I felt I needed to in order to stay alive.' or 'If I hadn't gone to the party I might have been assaulted anyway somewhere else. I deserve to go to a party and not be raped.'

Example II

This is a characterological self blame thought (undeserved shame): 'I must be a bad person to deserve to be raped and not believed by anyone.'

This is a more reasonable thought: 'The only reason people don't believe me is their belief in the Just World Theory. If people knew more about rape trauma syndrome then they would know how to help me instead of derogating me to my fate.

 Cognitive Restructuring Chart

Behavioral Blame / Guilt - Appropriate?

Characterological Blame / Shame - Appropriate?
Victim
NO

 

NO

 

Perpetrator
YES

 

YES

 

 

Some researchers believe that survivors confuse the shame they feel at having been stigmatized with the guilt meant for someone who has committed a crime. This is reinforced by secondary victimization and victim blame.

 

The main aspects of self blame researched thus far are:

 

The five underlying factors for self blame

  • Perpetrator blame
  • Characterological self-blame- Associated with negative outcomes for the victim (psychological distress, more frequent past victimization). The tendency to feel bad about the self is associated with shame feelings (Dearing et. al., 2005).
  • Situational factors and/or chance blame
  • Behavioral self-blame- Less strongly associated with negative outcomes for the victim. The tendency to feel bad about a specific behavior is associated with feeling guilt (Dearing et. al., 2005) .
  • Societal blame (Breitenbecher, 2006)

Study results indicated that characterological self-blame, but not behavioral self-blame, was associated with negative outcomes, including increased psychological distress and increased frequency of past victimization. (Breitenbecher, 2006) Behavioral self blame is harmful in part because it is associated with greater social withdrawal.

Other factors from psychological and sociological studies:

Vulnerability factors for self blame

  • Further studies showed that revictimized groups (with more than one assault) reported more self-blame at the time of the abuse and currently. (Filipas & Ullman, 2006). It is also found that victims of more than one assault have higher levels of PTSD than victims of only one assault. PTSD is considered a vulnerability factor for revictimization. Being the victim of child abuse doubles the risk for adult sexual victimization
  • PTSD and other psychological vulnerabilities can increase the risk of self blame. "Psychological Problem History exacerbated Characterological Self-Blame, leading to more Maladaptive Beliefs, which determined initial Psychosocial Distress and its rate of decline." (Koss & Figueredooss, 2004)
  • Counterfactual thinking increased self blame. "The more upward counterfactuals (i.e., ways the rape might have been avoided) victims concurred with where some aspect of the self was mutated, the poorer their well-being." (Branscombe et. al., 2003)

  • In the after math of the assault feelings of self-blame and negative reactions received from others (secondary victimization) are potentially important predictors of avoidance coping (Littleton, 2006). Avoidance coping is a negative coping skill not productive for victims.

Control over your life

 

Wanting to think you were in control during the assault (negative results):

Self blame is thought by some to be a way to feel one had never lost control over the situation. If it is your fault- then you always had control over things and you feel less vulnerable. This type of thinking is called past control or behavioral self-blame. Feeling this way is associated with more distress partly because it is associated with greater social withdrawal.

 

Thinking you are in control NOW (positive results):

Present control (control over the recovery process) is associated with less distress partly because it was associated with less social withdrawal and more cognitive restructuring. If you have control NOW (in the present) then there are actually productive things you can do to improve the situation (Frazier, 2005).

 

Helpful Responses and Counseling

Three types of Rape Crisis Center counseling responses were judged to be helpful in reducing feelings of self-blame:

(a) Supportive responses see: Secondary victimization

(b) Psychoeducational responses (learning about rape trauma syndrome) see: Effects of rape

(c) Those responses addressing the issue of blame. (Matsushita-Arao, 1997 ) see: Victim blame or Self blame

A recommended type of treatment (by a trained therapist) is cognitive restructuring or cognitive therapy. Other recommended treatments for PTSD can be found here.

Research on self blame recovery findings:

Studies suggest that characterological Self-Blame sets the initial level of Psychosocial Distress and that reduction in Behavioral Self-Blame drives recovery (Koss & Figueredo, 2004).

Present control (control over the recovery process) is similar to learning about rape trauma syndrome and seeking therapy. Feeling that you did NOT control the assault but control the present situation is associated with less social withdrawal and more cognitive restructuring (Frazier, 2005).

 

Victim Blame

Study "findings showed that observers attributed both characterological and behavioral blame to rape survivors spontaneously during the course of conversation and in similar proportions to the self-blame observed in rape survivors." In addition "Both men and women attributed more behavioral blame to the female than to the male survivor. Men also attributed more characterological blame to the female than to the male survivor, whereas female participants attributed equal amounts of characterological blame to both survivors." (Anderson, 1999)

There are two main theories behind victim blame:

The just world theory and the invulnerability theory.

The Just world theory states that:

"Individuals that have a strong belief in a just world can have this belief challenged when they encounter a victim of random misfortune such as a rape victim. The individual wants to believe that the world is a safe, just place where people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. Even when evidence suggests otherwise, the individual is very reluctant to give up this belief that the world is not just. In the face of contradicting evidence, research suggests (Kleinke and Meyer, 1996) that people with a high belief in a just world will do one of two things: either they will try to eliminate the suffering of the innocent victims or else they will derogate them for their fate. Since it is impossible to reverse the crime of rape, and thus relieve the victim of her suffering, the rape victim is often subjected to derogation and blame. In this manner, the person who believes in a just world can maintain this belief as there is no longer a suffering person, but a woman who deserves her misfortune."

The invulnerability theory states that:

Some people blame themselves because it is a way to think 'you' had control over the situation. If it was your fault, then you were in control. It wasn't your fault and you weren't in control - but you are in control now. Understanding that there are some things we don't have control over (like world peace and the actions of criminals) is part of letting go of shame. You can control your healing process. You can reach out for help, educate yourself about rape trauma syndrome and start therapy. (Schneider et. al., 1994)

 

Is self blame a negative thing? Yes.

Self blame is sometimes associated with avoidance coping which inhibits the healing process. (Littleton, 2006)

 

Guilt v/s Shame

Some theories state that rape victims are confusing shame with guilt. They are distinct from each other. Research has found that:

  • Embarrassment was associated with transgressions of conventions that govern public interactions,
  • Shame with the failure to meet important personal standards, and
  • Guilt with actions that harm others or violate duties. (Dacher, 1996)

 

What are the roles of shame and guilt in the after math of rape? As you will read below shame is associated with Characterological self blame and guilt is associated with behavioral self blame. Researchers have found that Characterological blame is more harmful to victims. That may be because Characterological shame is the feeling that you, yourself are bad instead of merely something you did being bad. Actions can change easily, reflect only a moment in time or seem removed from the self - but changing who you are is more difficult. In the case of rape victims it is an illusion that the victim is bad or did something wrong. Removing this illusion with cognitive restructuring may be part of the solution. The concept of shame and the self may be related to dissociation on some level.

  • Shame has been found to be a factor in substance abuse problems whereas guilt has not. (Collete & Nicholas, 1995)
  • Abusive environments have also been linked to shame-prone tendencies as opposed to guilt-prone. (Collete & Nicholas, 1995)
  • There is a distinct difference between shame and guilt, who feels it and why.
  • Shame is also linked to repressed anger in both men and women. It manifests as shame more often in women and anger more often in men. (Collete & Nicholas, 1995)

 

Shame-proneness is also described as "(the tendency to feel bad about the self) relates to a variety of life problems, whereas guilt-proneness (the tendency to feel bad about a specific behavior) is more likely to be adaptive." (Dearing et. al., 2005) This perhaps explains why perpetrators of crimes may fare better psychologically than victims. If shame is related to more psychological problems than guilt then the perpetrator of the crime would suffer less complications. This relates to the invulnerability theory in that the victim leans toward accepting responsibility for something they did not do in order to maintain psychological stability. Perhaps guilt is psychologically easier to bear than shame. Research on shame and guilt

Counter factual thinking

&

Cognitive restructuring

All of this is a part of counterfactual thinking: Meaning, literally, contrary to the facts. It also refers to thinking about 'what might have been'.

Counterfactual thinking is also linked to greater attributions of self blame. (Mandel & Dhami, 2005), (Niedenthal et., al. 1994), more research on counterfactual thinking

Related theory: Stockholm Syndrome

This can be treated by using cognitive restructuring: Stop telling yourself the bad story and tell yourself a good story instead. One that says you did the right thing - things might have been worse had you not done what you needed to do to stay alive.

 

Other factors to consider in self blame (see below articles) are the role of PTSD in shame and guilt, religious belief systems (possibly Characterological self-blame) and more.

 

Online resources

 

The difference between guilt v/s shame

http://www.healthyplace.com/Communities/Abuse/lisk/guilt_shame.htm

 

Counter factual thinking

http://www.psych.uiuc.edu/~roese/cf/

Reflections on what might have been are termed counterfactual thoughts. People engage in counterfactual thinking all the time. These thoughts are sometimes painful, as when they lead to the emotion of regret ("I should have tried harder ...").

Aspects of counter factual thinking are:

regret: counterfactual is broad, embracing many different types of "if only" thoughts. Regret refers to a more circumscribed feeling, centering on one's own (as opposed to other's) actions

Who does this? Some think it is based on these factors:

  • " Consideration of Future Consequences
    - The dispositional tendency to consider future outcomes following from specific actions mitigates the tendency for upward counterfactuals to produce negative affect and self-blame (Boninger, Gleicher, & Strathman, 1994; Gleicher et al., 1995; Strathman et al., 1994).
  • Depression
    - Depressed individuals tend to generate more counterfactuals for controllable than uncontrollable events, and this effect is mediated by perceptions of loss of control. This suggests that counterfactuals may be used to regain feelings of control (Markman & Weary, 1996).
  • Optimism
    - Optimists (relative to defensive pessimists) are more likely to generate downward counterfactuals in response to negative moods, perhaps for mood management (Kasimatis & Wells, 1995; Sanna, 1998).
  • Rumination
    - A dispositional tendency to ruminate (repeated, obsessive self-focused thinking regarding past events) is associated but not synonymous with counterfactual thinking (Davis et al., 1995; Kasimatis & Wells, 1995).
  • Self-Efficacy
    - High self-efficacy (relative to low self-efficacy) individuals felt better after upward counterfactual thinking, but only when the focal task is expected to be repeated (Sanna, 1998).
  • Self-Esteem
    - High self-esteem (relative to low self-esteem) individuals show greater tendency for their counterfactuals to be self-serving, in that mutations of own behavior predominate after success but mutations of others' behavior predominates after failure (Kasimatis & Wells, 1995; Roese & Olson, 1993).
    - High self-esteem (relative to low self-esteem) individuals are more likely to generate downward counterfactuals strategically for mood management (Kasimatis & Wells, 1995; Sanna, Meier, & Turley-Ames, 1998; Sanna, Turley-Ames, & Meier, 1999).
    - High self-esteem (relative to low self-esteem) individuals may generate more counterfactual thoughts overall (Eck & Kite, 1997)."

    More research on counterfactual thinking

 

 

Letting go of shame

http://www.hopeheals.me.uk/21.html

 

Self blame

http://www.ibiblio.org/rcip/selfblame.html

Why do rape victims blame themselves? A guide for rape survivors.

 

Non-Rational Guilt in Victims of Trauma

The guilt many victims of physical and psychological trauma experience in response to their victimization often contains non-rational content which, when analyzed, is more appropriate to the perpetrator. This non-rational perpetrator guilt is imposed on the victim under two primary conditions: 1) attribution, in which the perpetrator disavows guilt and blames the victim for the victimization; and 2) terror, which results in the victim's rapid incorporation of essentially the entire world view of the perpetrator, including the perpetrator's guilt. Guilt results when some aspect of a moral system is transgressed. There are four aspects of a moral system reflecting different levels of guilt and four basic components of guilt within each level. The perpetrator's violation of one aspect of a moral system may be processed by the victim at the level of another aspect, making resolution difficult. Resolution involves careful analysis of the content of the guilt to enable the victim to identify its source.

Journal articles

 

Sorted by relevance

 

Breitenbecher, Kimberly Hanson (2006). The Relationships Among Self-Blame, Psychological Distress, and Sexual Victimization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21 (5), p597-611, 15p. link

Abstract

The primary purpose of this investigation is to assess the factor structure of survivors' attributions for previously experienced sexual assaults. Two hundred twenty-four female survivors of sexual assault responded to measures assessing attributions for past assaults, perceived avoidability of future assaults, frequency of past victimizations, and psychological distress. Factor analysis of the attributions measure suggested five underlying factors: perpetrator blame, characterological self-blame, situational factors and/or chance blame, behavioral self-blame, and societal blame. Results indicated that characterological self-blame, but not behavioral self-blame, was associated with negative outcomes, including increased psychological distress and increased frequency of past victimization. Although behavioral self-blame was associated with perceived avoidability of future assaults, it was not associated with lower psychological distress or reduced frequency of past victimizations.

 

 

Matsushita-Arao, Yoshiko. (1997). Self-blame and depression among forcible rape survivors. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering. 57(9-B). pp. 5925.

Abstract:

The purposes of this study were four-fold. The first purpose was to determine the relationship between rape survivors' self-blame (behavioral, characterological, and total amount of self-blame) and time (retrospective and current assessments). For the retrospective assessment, survivors rated their feelings of self-blame immediately following their rape and before receiving Rape Crisis Center (RCC) treatment. For the current assessment, survivors rated their feelings of self-blame at the time of completing this study's questionnaire and after having received RCC treatment. The second purpose was to identify whether perceived severity was a better predictor of current total amounts of self-blame and depression than actual severity. The third purpose was to determine the relationships between current self-blame and depression and various pre-assault, assault, and post-assault variables. The fourth purpose was to identify the relationships between RCC contacts (number of contacts and amount of satisfaction) and current self-blame and depression. Participants were women survivors of adult forcible rape identified by staff members at 14 RCCs. Questionnaires were mailed to 50 women who agreed to participate, and of these, 42 (84%) returned them. Wilcoxin Signed-Ranks test for matched pairs, simple correlations, and multiple regression were used to analyze the data. The major findings were: (1) RCC survivors reported experiencing less total, behavioral, and characterological amounts of self-blame currently than they retrospectively reported experiencing right after their rape. (2) The best predictor of current total amount of self-blame using pre-assault, assault, and post-assault variables was the relationship to the assailant(s). Survivors who knew their assailant(s) reported experiencing more self-blame. (3) The best predictor of current amount of depression was the amount of time since the rape. As the amount of time increased, the survivors reported experiencing less depression. (4) Three types of RCC counseling responses were judged to be helpful in reducing feelings of self-blame: (a) supportive responses, (b) psychoeducational responses, and (c) those responses addressing the issue of blame. (5) There was an inverse relationship between the number of RCC counseling contacts for the rape and the current total amount of self-blame. As the number of contacts increased, the survivors reported experiencing less self-blame. Implications of the findings are discussed.

 

 

Filipas, Henrietta H.; Ullman, Sarah E. (2006). Child Sexual Abuse, Coping Responses, Self-Blame, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Adult Sexual Revictimization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21 (5). link

Abstract:

The present study examined the psychological sequelae of child sexual abuse (CSA) and the factors that contributed to revictimization in the form of adult sexual assault (ASA) using a survey of 577 female college students. CSA characteristics, maladaptive coping in response to CSA, degree of self-blame at the time of the abuse and currently, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were examined as predictors of revictimization. Results indicated that individuals who reported both CSA and ASA had more PTSD symptoms, were more likely to use drugs or alcohol to cope, act out sexually, withdraw from people, and seek therapy services. In addition, the revictimized group reported more self-blame at the time of the abuse and currently. The only factor that predicted revictimization in this study was the number of maladaptive coping strategies used. Implications of these findings are discussed.

 

 

Littleton, Heather; Breitkopf, Carmen Radecki (2006). COPING WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF RAPE. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30 (1), p106-116, 11p.

Abstract:

The coping strategies that a victim of a rape engages in can have a strong impact on the development and persistence of psychological symptoms. Research provides evidence that victims who rely heavily on avoidance strategies, such as suppression, are less likely to recover successfully than those who rely less heavily on these strategies. The present study utilized structural path analysis to identify predictors of avoidance coping following rape and examined factors in the assault itself (e.g., force, alcohol use), sequelae of the assault (e.g., self-blame, loss of self-worth), and social support as potential direct and indirect predictors of avoidance coping. From a sample of 1,253 university women, the responses of 216 women who endorsed an experience of rape were examined. Results suggested that sequelae of the assault such as feelings of self-blame and negative reactions received from others are potentially important predictors of avoidance coping. Implications of the results for future rape recovery research are discussed.

 

 

Branscombe, Nyla R.; Wohl, Michael J. A.; Owen, Susan; Allison, Julie A.; N'gbala, Ahogni. (2003). Counterfactual Thinking, Blame Assignment, and Well-Being in Rape Victims. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 25 (4). p265, 9p. , More research on counterfactual thinking

Abstract:

Blame assignment and well-being among women who had been raped (N = 85) were investigated as a function of counterfactual thinking. The more upward counterfactuals (i.e., ways the rape might have been avoided) victims concurred with where some aspect of the self was mutated, the poorer their well-being. The effect of such upward counterfactual thinking on well-being was mediated by increases in self-blame. The amount of blame assigned to both the rapist and society did not mediate the effect of counterfactual thinking on well-being. These observed effects of counterfactual thinking on blame assignment are consistent with those obtained with uninvolved observers and with victims of other types of trauma. Models testing other possible relationship orderings were not supported. Implications for intervention strategies with rape victims are considered.

 

 

Branscombe, Nyla R.; Wohl, Michael J. A.; Owen, Susan; Allison, Julie A.; N'gbala, Ahogni (2003). Counterfactual Thinking, Blame Assignment, and Well-Being in Rape Victims. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 25 (4), p265. link

Abstract:

Blame assignment and well-being among women who had been raped (N = 85) were investigated as a function of counterfactual thinking. The more upward counterfactuals (i.e., ways the rape might have been avoided) victims concurred with where some aspect of the self was mutated, the poorer their well-being. The effect of such upward counterfactual thinking on well-being was mediated by increases in self-blame. The amount of blame assigned to both the rapist and society did not mediate the effect of counterfactual thinking on well-being. These observed effects of counterfactual thinking on blame assignment are consistent with those obtained with uninvolved observers and with victims of other types of trauma. Models testing other possible relationship orderings were not supported. Implications for intervention strategies with rape victims are considered.

 

 

Frazier, Patricia A.; Mortensen, Heather; Steward, Jason. (2005). Coping Strategies as Mediators of the Relations Among Perceived Control and Distress in Sexual Assault Survivors. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Jul2005, Vol. 52 Issue 3, p267-278

Abstract:

Two studies assessed whether coping strategies mediate the relations among 2 forms of perceived control (past and present control) and postassault distress among female sexual assault survivors. In Study 1, longitudinal data were gathered from 2 weeks to 1 year postassault (N = 171). Past control (behavioral self-blame) was associated with more distress partly because it was associated with greater social withdrawal. Present control (control over the recovery process) was associated with less distress partly because it was associated with less social withdrawal and more cognitive restructuring. In Study 2, cross-sectional data were gathered from a community sample of nonrecent survivors of sexual assault (N = 131). Coping strategies again mediated the relations among the measures of past and present control and distress.

 

 

Littleton, Heather; Breitkopf, Carmen Radecki (2006). COPING WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF RAPE. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30 (1), p106-116

Abstract:

The coping strategies that a victim of a rape engages in can have a strong impact on the development and persistence of psychological symptoms. Research provides evidence that victims who rely heavily on avoidance strategies, such as suppression, are less likely to recover successfully than those who rely less heavily on these strategies. The present study utilized structural path analysis to identify predictors of avoidance coping following rape and examined factors in the assault itself (e.g., force, alcohol use), sequelae of the assault (e.g., self-blame, loss of self-worth), and social support as potential direct and indirect predictors of avoidance coping. From a sample of 1,253 university women, the responses of 216 women who endorsed an experience of rape were examined. Results suggested that sequelae of the assault such as feelings of self-blame and negative reactions received from others are potentially important predictors of avoidance coping. Implications of the results for future rape recovery research are discussed.

 

 

Frazier, Patricia A.; Mortensen, Heather; Steward, Jason. (2005). Coping Strategies as Mediators of the Relations Among Perceived Control and Distress in Sexual Assault Survivors. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 52 (3). p267-278.

Abstract:

Two studies assessed whether coping strategies mediate the relations among 2 forms of perceived control (past and present control) and postassault distress among female sexual assault survivors. In Study 1, longitudinal data were gathered from 2 weeks to 1 year postassault (N = 171). Past control (behavioral self-blame) was associated with more distress partly because it was associated with greater social withdrawal. Present control (control over the recovery process) was associated with less distress partly because it was associated with less social withdrawal and more cognitive restructuring. In Study 2, cross-sectional data were gathered from a community sample of nonrecent survivors of sexual assault (N = 131). Coping strategies again mediated the relations among the measures of past and present control and distress.

 

Littleton, Heather; Breitkopf, Carmen Radecki.. (2006). COPING WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF RAPE. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30 (1), p106-116.

Abstract:

The coping strategies that a victim of a rape engages in can have a strong impact on the development and persistence of psychological symptoms. Research provides evidence that victims who rely heavily on avoidance strategies, such as suppression, are less likely to recover successfully than those who rely less heavily on these strategies. The present study utilized structural path analysis to identify predictors of avoidance coping following rape and examined factors in the assault itself (e.g., force, alcohol use), sequelae of the assault (e.g., self-blame, loss of self-worth), and social support as potential direct and indirect predictors of avoidance coping. From a sample of 1,253 university women, the responses of 216 women who endorsed an experience of rape were examined. Results suggested that sequelae of the assault such as feelings of self-blame and negative reactions received from others are potentially important predictors of avoidance coping. Implications of the results for future rape recovery research are discussed.

 

Walker, Jayne; Archer, John; Davies, Michelle. (2005). Effects of Rape on Men: A Descriptive Analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34 (1). p69-80, 12p.

Abstract:

Previous studies of the effects of rape on men have focused mainly on clinical populations. This study extended current research by investigating the effects of rape on a non-clinical sample of men recruited from the general population by media advertising. A total of 40 male rape victims were asked to provide details of their assaults, levels of psychological disturbance, long-term effects, and reporting issues. Results revealed that most assaults had been carried out using physical or violent force, in a variety of different circumstances. All of the victims reported some form of psychological disturbance as a result of being raped. Long-term effects included anxiety, depression, increased feelings of anger and vulnerability, loss of self-image, emotional distancing, self-blame, and self-harming behaviors. Findings are discussed in relation to previous research in the area and perceptions of rape.

 

Panepinto, Amberly R. (2005). Meaning reconstruction and recovery in rape survivors. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 66(1-B). pp. 568. , More research on counterfactual thinking

Abstract:

While some research has focused on the meanings created by women after an episode of violence, none has focused on the meaning-making process. The present study explores the meaning-making process after a rape, specifically investigating how women's constructions of the rape and the self change over time. The study was rooted in personal construct psychology, a theory that focuses on the ways that we create meanings. Narrative methods were used, and the data analysis was conducted through grounded theory. Themes will be presented for each participant individually and across participants. Themes across participants include finding a sense of purpose, confronting the perpetrator, rejecting self-blame, taking responsibility for the recovery process, finding a support network, and struggles with relationships and body image. Implications for recovery models, therapy, and personal construct psychology will be discussed.

 

Foa, Edna B.; Rauch, Sheila A. M. (2004). Cognitive Changes During Prolonged Exposure Versus Prolonged Exposure Plus Cognitive Restructuring in Female Assault Survivors With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 72(5). pp. 879-884., More research on counterfactual thinking

Abstract:

The authors report on changes in cognitions related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among 54 female survivors of sexual and nonsexual assault with chronic PTSD who completed either prolonged exposure alone or in combination with cognitive restructuring. Treatment included 9-12 weekly sessions, and assessment was conducted at pretreatment, posttreatment, and a modal 12-month follow-up. As hypothesized, treatment that included prolonged exposure resulted in clinically significant, reliable, and lasting reductions in negative cognitions about self, world, and self-blame as measured by the Posttraumatic Cognitions Inventory. The hypothesis that the addition of cognitive restructuring would augment cognitive changes was not supported. Reductions in these negative cognitions were significantly related to reductions in PTSD symptoms. The addition of cognitive restructuring did not significantly augment the cognitive changes. Theoretical implications of the results are discussed.

 

 

Branscombe, Nyla R.; Wohl, Michael J. A.; Owen, Susan; Allison, Julie A.; N'gbala, Ahogni. (2003). Counterfactual Thinking, Blame Assignment, and Well-Being in Rape Victims. Basic & Applied Social Psychology. 25 (4). p265, 9p. , More research on counterfactual thinking

Abstract:

Blame assignment and well-being among women who had been raped (N = 85) were investigated as a function of counterfactual thinking. The more upward counterfactuals (i.e., ways the rape might have been avoided) victims concurred with where some aspect of the self was mutated, the poorer their well-being. The effect of such upward counterfactual thinking on well-being was mediated by increases in self-blame. The amount of blame assigned to both the rapist and society did not mediate the effect of counterfactual thinking on well-being. These observed effects of counterfactual thinking on blame assignment are consistent with those obtained with uninvolved observers and with victims of other types of trauma. Models testing other possible relationship orderings were not supported. Implications for intervention strategies with rape victims are considered.

 

Frazier, Patricia A. (2003). Perceived control and distress following sexual assault: A longitudinal test of a new model. ; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 84(6) pp. 1257-1269.

Abstract:

Longitudinal data were collected from female sexual assault survivors (N=171) at 4 points postassault. Consistent with the predictions of the temporal model (P. Frazier, M. Berman, & J. Steward, 2002), past, present, and future control were differentially related to posttrauma distress. Both personal past (behavioral self-blame) and vicarious past (rapist blame) control were associated with higher distress levels. In addition, the belief that future assaults are less likely was more strongly associated with lower distress levels than was future control. Present control (i.e., control over the recovery process) was most adaptive. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses revealed that changes in perceived control were associated with changes in distress after linear change in distress over time was accounted for.

 

Nadon, Susan Margaret. (1972). The relationship between blame and symptomatology among female victims of acquaintance rape. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences. 64(6-A). pp.

Abstract:

In recent years, awareness of the rape of women by acquaintances has been brought to public attention. The empirical literature suggests that while the consequences of stranger rape (SR) victims are also common among acquaintance rape (AR), AR victims tend to blame themselves at a higher rate than their SR counterparts. Although blaming others for the victimization has received less research attention, a small body of literature indicated that other blame was related to negative consequences following threatening events. Out of a sample of 804 female Introductory Psychology students, 66 participants were identified as victims of AR. When the victim-offender relationship was restricted to include only romantic and non-romantic acquaintances and exclude victims of stranger rape, there was a trend toward significance suggesting that assaults by less intimate acquaintances were related to higher self-blame, not less, as predicted. Backward multiple regressions showed that low resistance by the victim was associated with high self-blame whereas high resistance was related to high perpetrator blame. As expected, AR victims reported more psychological symptoms compared to a matched comparison group of non-acquaintance rape victims or non-victims. Unexpectedly, prior childhood sexual victimization was unrelated to self-blame, perpetrator blame, or psychological distress. Self-blame was the only significant predictor of symptomatology. Implications for treatment and suggestions for future research are presented.

 

Koss, Mary P.; Figueredo, Aurelio José; Prince, Ronald J. (2002). Cognitive mediation of rape's mental, physical and social health impact: Tests of four models in cross-sectional data. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 70(4). pp. 926-941.

Abstract:

Four nested, theoretically specified, increasingly complex models were tested representing cognitive mediation of rape's effects on mental, physical, and social health. Data were cross-sectional (N = 253 rape survivors). Outcomes were standardized assessments of social maladjustment, physical, and psychological symptoms, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The best-fitting model was not fully cognitively mediated. Personological and rape characteristics influenced the level of self-blame experienced and the intensity of maladaptive beliefs about self and others. Self-blame and maladaptive beliefs predicted psychological distress, which strongly influenced all health outcomes. Self-ratings of rape memory characteristics contributed little to predicting postrape distress. The model accounted for 56% of the variance in general distress, including 91% of psychological symptom severity; 54% of PTSD symptoms; 65% of social maladjustment; and 17% of physical symptoms. Longitudinal replication is planned.

 

 

Koss, Mary P.; Figueredo, Aurelio José (2004). Change in Cognitive Mediators of Rape's Impact on Psychosocial Health Across 2 Years of Recovery. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 72 (6), p1063-1072. link

Abstract:

A previously published cross-sectional model of cognitive mediation of rape's impact on health (M. P. Koss, A. J. Figueredo, & R. J, Prince, 2002) was replicated longitudinally. Rape survivors (n = 59) were assessed 4 times at 3-24 months postrape. Growth curve analysis demonstrated significant change in all mediators and outcomes. Previously reported effects of Characterological Self-Blame, Behavioral Self-Blame, and Maladaptive Beliefs on Psychosocial Distress were partially cross-validated in intercept and slope data. The results suggest that Characterological Self-Blame sets the initial level of Psychosocial Distress and that reduction in Behavioral Self-Blame drives recovery. These effects on distress were wholly mediated through self-blame's association with alterations in beliefs about self and others.

 

 

Shimp, Lana Noel (2002). A model of sexual assault acknowledgment: Blame, social support, posttraumatic stress, and posttraumatic growth. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering. 62(11-B). pp. 5392.

Abstract:

Previous research has indicated that approximately half of the women who have experiences which are consistent with legal descriptions of rape do not identify themselves as having experienced a rape. A model of sexual assault/rape acknowledgment was proposed, which attempts to integrate previous research in the area which suggests that the circumstances of the assault (i.e., relationship with the assailant, resistance and force), perceptions of significant others' and societal attitudes towards rape, attributions of blame, disclosure, unsupportive behavior from others, posttraumatic stress symptomatology, and posttraumatic growth may be important in terms of understanding acknowledgment. Path analysis was used to test this model as applied to sexual assault acknowledgment. The final sample consisted of 238 university women who had experiences consistent with legal definitions of sexual assault. This sample was obtained after screening 2552 female students based on their previous unwanted sexual experiences. The proposed model received partial support and a better fitting model was derived. Contrary to expectations, sexual assault acknowledgment was not associated with greater posttraumatic growth, as posttraumatic stress accounted for the observed relationship between sexual assault acknowledgment and posttraumatic growth. Thus, the results of this study contradict clinical and feminist literature, which suggests that acknowledgment is necessary in order to facilitate growth following a sexual trauma. More forceful assaults, greater perpetrator blame, more posttraumatic stress symptomatology, less negative perceptions of significant others' attitudes towards rape, and more negative perceptions of societal attitudes towards rape were all directly related to greater sexual assault acknowledgment. The relationship with the perpetrator, self blame, resistance, and unsupportive behavior were indirectly related to sexual assault acknowledgment. As expected, women who had experiences which were consistent with legal definitions of rape/sexual assault were more likely to use the term "sexual assault" rather than the term "rape" to describe their forced sexual experience. This study illustrates the complexity of the process of sexual assault acknowledgment, as there are many possible paths to acknowledgment. The results are discussed in terms of sexual assault reporting, clinical applications, and theoretical issues.

 

 

Neville, Helen A.; Heppner, Mary J.; Oh, Euna; Spanierman, Lisa B.; Clark, Mary. (2004). General And Culturally Specific Factors Influencing Black And White Rape Survivors' Self-Esteem. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 28(1). p83-94, 12p.

Abstract:

Grounded in a culturally inclusive ecological model of sexual assault recovery framework, the influence of personal (e.g., prior victimization), rape context (e.g., degree of injury during last assault), and postrape response factors (e.g., general and cultural attributions, rape related coping) on self-esteem of Black and White college women, who were survivors of attempted and completed rape, were examined. As predicted, Black and White women identified similar general variables (e.g., general attributions) as important in the recovery process. Black women, however, identified a cultural factor (i.e., cultural attributions) as more important in influencing their reactions to the last rape compared to their White counterparts. Using path analysis, findings from this cross-sectional study indicated that severity of the last assault and prior victimization were related to lower self-esteem indirectly through avoidance coping strategies, and victim blame attributions for the latter. Results also suggested that the link between cultural attributions and self-esteem was explained through victim blame attributions, primarily for Black participants. The model accounted for 26% of variance in self-esteem.

 

 

Ullman, Sarah E. (1996). Social reactions, coping strategies, and self-blame attributions in adjustment to sexual assault. ; Psychology of Women Quarterly. 20(4). pp. 505-526.

Abstract:

The present study investigated the impact of social reactions of others to sexual-assault victims on disclosure of their victimization. A convenience sample of adult sexual-assault victims (N = 155) completed a mail survey in which they reported information about their sexual assaults and postassault experiences. As expected, all negative social reactions were strongly associated with increased psychological symptoms, whereas most positive social reactions were unrelated to adjustment. The only social reactions related to better adjustment were being believed and being listened to by others. Victims experiencing negative social reactions also reported poorer adjustment even when other variables known to affect psychological recovery were controlled. Avoidance coping mediated the association of negative social reactions with adjustment. Implications of these findings for research and treatment of sexual-assault survivors are discussed.

 

 

Foster MD, Matheson K, Poole M. (1994). Responding to sexual discrimination: the effects of societal versus self-blame. J Soc Psychol. 134(6):743-54.link

Abstract:

Although self-blame has been considered to be a useful coping tool for victims, its benefits within the context of group discrimination are equivocal. The present research hypothesized that women encouraged to engage in self-blame for sex discrimination would be more likely to endorse accepting the situation or to endorse the use of individual, normative actions. In contrast, women encouraged to engage in societal blame for sex discrimination would be more likely to participate in nonnormative actions aimed at enhancing the status of women as a group. Female students in Canada were subjected to a situation of discrimination and were encouraged to blame either themselves or society. They were then given the opportunity to respond to the discrimination by endorsing various actions. A profile analysis of the endorsed actions indicated that the women encouraged to blame themselves were most likely to endorse accepting the situation, whereas the women encouraged to blame society endorsed nonnormative individual confrontation.

 

Janoff-Bulman R. (1979). Characterological versus behavioral self-blame: inquiries into depression and rape. J Pers Soc Psychol. 37(10):1798-809. link

Abstract:

Two types of self-blame--behavioral and characterological--are distinguished. Behavioral self-blame is control related, involves attributions to a modifiable source (one's behavior), and is associated with a belief in the future avoidability of a negative outcome. Characterological self-blame is esteem related, involves attributions to a relatively nonmodifiable source (one's character), and is associated with a belief in personal deservingness for past negative outcomes. Two studies are reported that bear on this self-blame distinction. In the first study, it was found that depressed female college students engaged in more characterologial self-blame than nondepressed female college students, whereas behavioral self-blame did not differ between the two groups; the depressed population was also characterized by greater attributions to chance and decreased beliefs in personal control. Characterological self-blame is proposed as a possible solution to the "paradox in depression." In a second study, rape crisis centers were surveyed. Behavioral self-blame, and not characterological self-blame, emerged as the most common response of rape victims to their victimization, suggesting the victim's desire to maintain a belief in control, particularly the belief in the future avoidability of rape. Implications of this self-blame distinction and potential directions for future research are discussed.

 

 

Daigneault, Isabelle; Tourigny, Marc; Hébert, Martine. (2006). Self-attributions of blame in sexually abused adolescents: A mediational model. This article was edited by the journal's previous editor, Dean G. Kilpatrick. By: Journal of Traumatic Stress. 19 (1), p153-157, 5p. link

Abstract:

This study evaluates the mediational role of general attributions in explaining the impact of specific attributions regarding sexual abuse (SA) on six posttraumatic symptoms. One hundred three SA female adolescents (13–17 years old) completed the Trauma Symptoms Checklist for Children (TSCC; Briere, 1989), the blame/guilt subscale of the Children's Impact of Traumatic Events Scale (CITES-R; Wolfe, Gentile, Michienzi, Sas, & Wolfe, 1991), and the Personal Attributions for Negative Events subscale of the Children's Attributions and Perceptions Scale (CAPS; Mannarino, Cohen, & Berman, 1994). Results indicate that general attributions act as a mediator between specific attributions and six posttraumatic symptoms (i.e., anxiety, depression, sexual concerns, posttraumatic stress, dissociation, and anger).

 

 

I H Frieze ; S Hymer ; M S Greenberg (1987). Describing the Crime Victim: Psychological Reactions to Victimization. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 18 (4) 299-315

Abstract:

We review research on systematic differences in such reactions over time. Such reactions often seem more severe than might be expected on the basis of the material loss or physical injury caused by victimization. Theories developed to explain the stress resulting from being a crime victim are outlined. They include a loss of sense of self, a loss of safety or invulnerability, and feelings of inequity or injustice. Also reviewed are the cognitive and behavioral coping responses of victims. Redefining the victimization experience as less severe than it originally seemed or as occuring for some other purpose is one common coping mechanism. Another is to blame oneself as a means of reestablishing control over the situation. Behavioral coping through withdrawal or through assertive action and help seeking is also discussed. Some of the special issues associated with family violence and with children who are victimized, as well as another special type of victim, the friend or relative of someone else who has been killed or seriously injured, are discussed. Needs for future research are outlined. (Author abstract)

 

Coffey, P., Leitenberg, H., Henning, K., Turner, T., & Bennett, R.T. (1996). Mediators of the long term impact of child sexual abuse: Perceived stigma, betrayal, powerlessness, and self-blame. Child Abuse & Neglect, 20, 447-455.

 

Libow, J. & Doty, D. (1979). An exploratory approach to self-blame and self-derogation by rape victims. American-Journal-of-Orthopsychiatry, 49(4), 670-679.

Victim Blame

 

Anderson, Irina (1999). Characterological and Behavioral Blame in Conversations About Female and Male Rape. Journal of Language & Social Psychology, 18 (4), p377,

Victim Blame:

This study investigated the spontaneous occurrence of characterological and behavioral blame in talk about rape. Although participants are willing to attribute both types of blame to rape survivors when prompted to do so by preexisting categories on questionnaires, little is known about the naturalistic aspect of these concepts as they might occur during the course of conversation. The present study also examined how participant and survivor gender influence these attributions. Findings showed that observers attributed both characterological and behavioral blame to rape survivors spontaneously during the course of conversation and in similar proportions to the self-blame observed in rape survivors. Also, both men and women blamed female and male survivors differently. Both men and women attributed more behavioral blame to the female than to the male survivor. Men also attributed more characterological blame to the female than to the male survivor, whereas female participants attributed equal amounts of characterological blame to both survivors.

 

Articles on guilt, survivor guilt and related topics

 

Wayment, Heidi A. (2004). It could have been me: Vicarious victims and disaster-focused distress.; Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol 30(4), Apr. pp. 515-528. link

Abstract:

College students who had experienced no personal bereavement in the September 11 terrorist attacks computed questionnaires between 3 and 5 weeks after the attacks and 5 months later. Cross-sectional and longitudinal structural equation model (SEM) analyses revealed that general distress and disaster-focused distress are discernable reactions following a collective loss. Both types of distress were higher among women and by those reporting social strain. General distress was associated with previous stressful events and mental health issues. Perceived similarity to the victims predicted disaster-focused distress and mediated the relationship between attending to media accounts of victims and disaster-focused distress. Only the disaster-focused distress reactions of survivor guilt and grief were associated with collective helping behaviors after the attacks and, for women, these behaviors were associated with greater reductions in these distress reactions over time. Discussion focuses on the importance of examining disaster-focused distress reactions following collective loss.

 

 

O’Connor, Lynn E.; Berry, Jack W.; Weiss, Joseph; Gilbert, Paul. (2002). Guilt, fear, submission, and empathy in depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, Sep2002, Vol. 71 Issue 1-3, p19, 9p. link

Abstract:

Background: This study compares self-focused motivations (fear of negative evaluation, social comparison, and fear of envy) and other-focused motivations (empathy and interpersonal guilt) in submissive behavior and depression. Methods: The Beck Depression Inventory, Submissive Behavior Scale, Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale, Social Comparison Scale, Interpersonal Guilt Questionnaire, and Interpersonal Reactivity Inventory were administered to 50 patients hospitalized for depression and 52 students. Results: Depressed patients were significantly higher in survivor guilt, omnipotent responsibility guilt, submissive behavior, fear of negative evaluation, fear of envy, and empathic distress, and lower in social comparison. Limitations: This research was limited in that it was a correlational study. Conclusions: This study suggests that altruistic concern about others may be an important factor in depression and submissive behavior. Evolutionary implications of these findings are discussed.

 

 

Khouzam, Hani Raoul; Kissmeyer, Perla. (1997). Antidepressant Treatment, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Survivor Guilt, and Spiritual Awakening. Journal of Traumatic Stress, Oct97, Vol. 10 Issue 4, p691-696, 6p. link

Abstract:

A patient with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had a major depressive episode that was responsive to treatment with the antidepressant fluoxetine. In contrast to the remission of other symptoms of depression, the associated feature of survivor guilt became more dramatically obvious. Individualized treatment of survivor guilt may be needed for patients with PTSD and major depression.

 

GUILT theories

 

Dacher Keltner (1996). Evidence for the Distinctness of Embarrassment, Shame, and Guilt: A Study of Recalled Antecedents and Facial Expressions of Emotion. Cognition & Emotion. 10 (2). pp. 155 - 172. link

Abstract:

Following proposals regarding the criteria for differentiating emotions, the current investigation examined whether the antecedents and facial expressions of embarrassment, shame, and guilt are distinct. In Study 1, participants wrote down events that had caused them to feel embarrassment, shame, and guilt. Coding of these events revealed that embarrassment was associated with transgressions of conventions that govern public interactions, shame with the failure to meet important personal standards, and guilt with actions that harm others or violate duties. Study 2 determined whether these three emotions are distinct in another domain of emotion-namely, facial expression. Observers were presented with slides of 14 different facial expressions, including those of embarrassment, shame, and candidates of guilt (self-contempt, sympathy, and pain). Observers accurately identified the expressions of embarrassment and shame, but did not reliably label any expression as guilt.

 

 

Niedenthal PM, Tangney JP, Gavanski I. (1994). "If only I weren't" versus "if only I hadn't": distinguishing shame and guilt in counterfactual thinking. J Pers Soc Psychol. 67(4):585-95. link, More research on counterfactual thinking

Abstract:

The role of counterfactual thinking in 2 emotions--shame and guilt--was examined. In 1 series of studies, Ss read about situations evocative of shame and guilt or described personal experiences of guilt or shame. They then generated counterfactual alternatives to "undo" the distressing outcomes. Consistent with predictions derived from Tangney (1991), Ss tended to undo shame situations by altering qualities of the self and to undo guilt situations by altering actions. In a 2nd series of studies, Ss imagined themselves in a situation that could evoke either guilt or shame. Ss were then led to mutate the self or behavior to undo the situation. Mutation manipulations amplified shame and guilt such that the former Ss anticipated feeling greater shame, whereas the latter anticipated feeling greater guilt. The role of counterfactual thinking in specific emotions and in differentiating shame- and guilt-prone personalities is discussed.

 

 

Collete L. Hoglund and Karen B. Nicholas. (1995). Shame, guilt, and anger in college students exposed to abusive family environments. Journal of Family Violence. 10(2). pp.141 - 157. link

Abstract:

The relationship between an abusive environment within the family and proneness to shame, guilt, anger, and hostility in college students revealed that greater exposure to emotional abusiveness was significantly related to higher shame, overt and covert hostility, and expressed and unexpressed anger. Greater exposure to physical abusiveness was significantly related to overt hostility and a tendency to experience anger without a specific provoking situation. Women reported higher shame and guilt, whereas men reported higher levels of overt hostility and expressed anger. Shame proneness was related to covert hostility and unexpressed anger for both men and women. However, guilt proneness was not related to exposure to family abusiveness or, with one exception, to the anger and hostility variables. Implications for therapy with adult survivors of child abuse are discussed.

 

 

Dearing, Ronda L.; Stuewig, Jeffrey; Tangney, June Price (2005). On the importance of distinguishing shame from guilt: Relations to problematic alcohol and drug use. Addictive Behaviors, 30 (7), p1392-1404, 13p. link, Research on shame and guilt

Abstract:

Abstract: Previous research has demonstrated that shame-proneness (the tendency to feel bad about the self) relates to a variety of life problems, whereas guilt-proneness (the tendency to feel bad about a specific behavior) is more likely to be adaptive. The current analyses sought to clarify the relations of shame-proneness and guilt-proneness to substance use problems in three samples with differing levels of alcohol and drug problem severity: college undergraduates (Study 1 N =235, Study 2 N =249) and jail inmates (Study 3 N =332). Across samples, shame-proneness was generally positively correlated with substance use problems, whereas guilt-proneness was inversely related (or unrelated) to substance use problems. Results suggest that shame and guilt should be considered separately in the prevention and treatment of substance misuse.

 

 

Tangney JP, Miller RS, Flicker L, Barlow DH. (1996). Are shame, guilt, and embarrassment distinct emotions? J Pers Soc Psychol. 70(6):1256-69. link, Research on shame and guilt

Abstract:

182 undergraduates described personal embarrassment, shame, and guilt experiences and rated these experiences on structural and phenomenological dimensions. Contrary to popular belief, shame was no more likely than guilt to be experienced in "public" situations; all 3 emotions typically occurred in social contexts, but a significant proportion of shame and guilt events occurred when respondents were alone. Analyses of participants' phenomenological ratings clearly demonstrated that shame, guilt, and embarrassment are not merely different terms for the same affective experience. In particular, embarrassment was a relatively distant neighbor of shame and guilt, and the differences among the 3 could not be explained simply by intensity of affect or by degree of moral transgression. Finally, participants generally were their own harshest critics in each type of event, evaluating themselves more negatively than they believed others did.

 

 

Wilson, John P.; Drozdek, Boris; Turkovic, Silvana (2006). Posttraumatic Shame and Guilt. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, Vol 7(2), Apr 2006. pp. 122-141. link, Research on shame and guilt

Abstract:

Posttraumatic shame and guilt are important dimensions of posttraumatic syndromes, including simple and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The concepts of posttraumatic shame and guilt have received little theoretical or empirical investigation in the field of traumatology. It is proposed that there are acute and prolonged states of posttraumatic shame and guilt that can be compared in their consequences across eight psychosocial dimensions: (a) self-attribution processes, (b) emotional states and capacity for affect regulation, (c) appraisal and interpretation of actions, (d) the impact of states of shame and guilt on personal identity, (e) suicidality, (f) defensive patterns, (g) proneness to psychopathology and PTSD, and (h) the dimensions of the self-structure adversely affected by states of posttraumatic shame and guilt. The experience of posttraumatic states of shame and guilt are associated with compounded affective processes in PTSD, depression, and substance use disorders. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)(journal abstract)

 

 

Albertsen, Elizabeth J.; O'Connor, Lynn E.; Berry, Jack W. (2006). Religion and interpersonal guilt: Variations across ethnicity and spirituality. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 9 (1), p67-84, 18p. link

Abstract:

In 246 college students, we found that ethnicity, religious affiliation, and religious or spiritual emphasis were significantly related to guilt. Ethnicities were compared, without regard to religion, on levels of interpersonal guilt, a construct that has been associated with a variety of psychological problems. There were significant differences found between ethnic groups, with Asian Americans higher in maladaptive interpersonal guilt than were European and Latin Americans. There were significant differences between groups of religious or spiritual affiliation, with Catholics and Protestants having higher levels of maladaptive interpersonal guilt than those with no religious affiliation. Within each ethnic group, we examined differences in guilt between religious groups, and between broader identification as religious (but not spiritual), spiritual (but not religious), spiritual and religious, or neither. There were significant differences between both religious affiliation groups and between broader religious or spiritual emphasis within ethnic groups, in interpersonal guilt. These results suggest that religious affiliation and religious or spiritual emphasis are important variables in the measurement of guilt, and guilt is an important construct in understanding people with religious and spiritual involvement. Clinical implications are discussed.

 

 

Stapleton, Jennifer A.; Taylor, Steven; Asmundson, Gordon J. G. (2006). Effects of three PTSD treatments on anger and guilt: Exposure therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and relaxation training. This article was edited by the journal's previous editor, Dean G. Kilpatrick. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 19 (1), p19-28, 10p. link, Research on shame and guilt

Abstract:

This study sought to investigate the efficacy of prolonged exposure, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and relaxation training on trait anger and guilt and on trauma-related anger and guilt within the context of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment. Fifteen PTSD patients completed each treatment and were assessed at posttreatment and at 3-month follow-up. All three treatments were associated with significant reductions in all measures of anger and guilt, with gains maintained at follow-up. There were no significant treatment differences in efficacy or in the proportion of patients who worsened on anger or guilt measures over the course of treatment. Between-treatment effect sizes were generally very small. Results suggest that all three treatments are associated with reductions in anger and guilt, even for patients who initially have high levels of these emotions. However, these PTSD therapies may not be sufficient for treating anger and guilt; additional interventions may be required.

 

 

Otto, Kathleen; Dalbert, Claudia. (2005). Belief in a just world and its functions for young prisoners. Journal of Research in Personality, 39 (6), p559-573, 15p. link

Abstract:

Abstract: This study focuses on the relationship between belief in a just world (BJW) and the feelings and behavior of young prisoners, taking into account their familial background and criminal career. Our sample comprised 66 young male prisoners from a German detention center. Regression analysis provided evidence for the three functions of the BJW: (a) High believers showed more justice motive-congruent behavior, e.g., they revealed fewer disciplinary problems during imprisonment. (b) High believers interpreted events in their life as more just, e.g., they perceived their legal proceedings as more just; consequently, they reported more feelings of guilt, and they were better able to cope with their anger. (c) High believers revealed more trust in their future, e.g., they were more confident that they would be able to achieve their personal goals. Overall, the BJW seems to be an important resource capable of improving young prisoners’ rehabilitation prospects.

Scholarly journal article citations on survivor guilt

 

Scholarly journal citations for self blame

 

Books

 

NiCarthy, G. (1982). Emotional abuse. In Getting Free. Seattle: WA: Seal Press: 285-304.

A Book chapter focuses on personal life dilemmas such as terror, inability to act independently due to erosion of self esteem. Issues of control, manipulation by perpetrator and self-blame are examined. Biderman's Chart of Coercion is included as well as questionnaires to measure levels of abuse. Recommended for general public and professionals.

 

 

Bibliographies

Victim blame

Victim blame II

MALE SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Counterfactual thinking

 

Resources to research this subject:

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Scholarly journal article citations on survivor guilt

 

 

Search terms: Counter factual thinking, avoidance coping, avoidance strategies, ATTRIBUTION (Social psychology), BEHAVIOR, BLAME, DISTRESS (Psychology), FACTOR analysis, RAPE, SOCIETIES, VICTIMS of crimes, WOMEN -- Crimes against, sexual assault, sexual victimization, attributions,, psychological adjustment, psychological distress, self-blame, suppression, Past control (behavioral self-blame), maladaptive beliefs, personal construct psychology, a theory that focuses on the ways that we create meanings, prolonged exposure; cognitive changes; cognitions; cognitive restructuring; female assault survivors; posttraumatic stress disorder, survivor self-blame, GUILT, GUILT & culture, SHAME, avoidance coping, avoidance strategies, suppression, Past control (behavioral self-blame), maladaptive beliefs, personal construct psychology, a theory that focuses on the ways that we create meanings, prolonged exposure; cognitive changes; cognitions; cognitive restructuring; female assault survivors; posttraumatic stress disorder, survivor self-blame, Depression, Guilt, Empathy, Psychopathology, Evolution, DEPRESSION, Mental, MOTIVATION (Psychology), SUBMISSIVENESS, Guilt; Posttraumatic Stress Disorder; Shame; Drug Abuse; Major Depression, BEHAVIORAL assessment, COGNITION, DISTRESS (Psychology), INTERPERSONAL relations, RAPE, SEX crimes

 

 

Thoughts for further research: Research is recommended on the role of avoidance coping in self blame as well as the negative effects avoidance coping has on the healing process. More resources on coping skills to replace avoidance coping are needed as well as how to distribute those to the survivor community. There is also a need for further research on the link between the just world theory and invulnerability and self blame in rape victims. In addition research on the contrast between perceptions of guilt v/s shame in victims is needed.

According to (Otto & Dalbert, 2005) criminals also feel the just world hypothesis applies to their own sentencing. Perhaps research into how punishing rapists instead of victims would affect public perceptions would be advisable. If rapists had a higher conviction rate then would the public perceive them to be experiencing a just world? Is the low conviction rate for alleged rapists causing or contributing to victim blame and reinforcing the just world phenomenon in relation to victim blaming?

 

Related links: Victim blame, Self blame, Secondary victimization, Eating disorders and sexual assault, Invisible community, Rape as a violation of rights, Prevention, Multiple victimization,

References:

Libow, J. & Doty, D. (1979). An exploratory approach to self-blame and self-derogation by rape victims. American-Journal-of-Orthopsychiatry, 49(4), 670-679.

 

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