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Sarena Loya, Jeffrey Barnett, Psy.D., ABPP, Carolyn M. Barry, Ph.D., Rachel L. Grover, Ph.D.

Campus Sexual Assault: The Victim’s Guide to Becoming a Survivor

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Sexual assault on college campuses is a widespread phenomenon that impacts college students during a fundamental stage of development. Nearly one fourth of women will experience attempted or completed sexual assault during college careers (U.S. Department of Justice, 2000). Sexual assault interferes with college victims’ development and increases the risk of suffering from problems related to mental health, physical health, relationships, and drug and alcohol use (Ahrens & Aldana, 2012; Plichta & Falik, 2001; Ullman & Najdowski, 2009b). Minority victims including men, ethnic minorities, and LGBT individuals, face unique issues related to sexual assault (e.g., Bryant-Davis et al., 2009; Heidt et al., 2005; Peterson et al., 2011).  

Most students do not report sexual assault incidents or receive help as a result of concerns such as embarrassment, uncertainty regarding the incident, fear of repercussions, victim blaming, and lack of energy to pursue services (U.S. Department of Justice, 2000; 2006). Victims who seek services frequently experience “secondary victimization” in which they are mistreated by service providers (for review see Campbell, 2008). Universities are often ineffective at distributing sexual assault resources to students as well as at facilitating utilization of materials (R. M. Hayes-Smith & Levett, 2010). Current university emphases on prevention and psychoeducation overlook individuals who have already been victimized and are struggling to recover. Rates of sexual assault incidents remain the same as they were since the discovery of campus sexual assault as problem in the 1980s (e.g., Campbell & Wasco, 2005; Vladitui et al. 2011).  

The creation of a comprehensive handbook for college student victims of sexual assault will facilitate recovery for this population in a concise and interactive manner. This resource will be valuable for victims who are overwhelmed by pamphlets, mental health services, and legal issues. Currently available materials are often overly brief or too empirical to be useful to a layperson. They fail to address long-term impact of sexual assault, lack treatment elements, and do not address diversity factors. Most self-help materials are not designed for college students and none that exist contain a variety of informative and interactive resources geared towards recovery for this population. This handbook will be of low cost to students and universities, easily accessible, reach those who are not ready or able to seek help, provide emotional support, facilitate control over the recovery process, address diversity factors, and include treatment elements.

Every chapter will contain a psychoeducational component providing information about campus sexual assault and a bibiliotherapy component including various charts, checklists, exercises, practical coping strategies, and case examples. The author will incorporate her previous experiences as a sexual assault advocate to animate the material. Chapters will address background information about campus assault, types of sexual assault that occur, campus rape culture, the impact of sexual assault on mental health and relationships, the impact of assault on minority victims, help seeking, and guide the completion of the recovery process. This poster will highlight basic information about campus assault, explain reasons that this handbook is needed, and describe the handbook chapters.

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