Around one in four women in the United States experience sexual assault. Around two-thirds decide to tell others about their experience, often with the expectation of support. Yet, women disclosing sexual assault often receive unhelpful and even harmful reactions from others, including family, friends, or mental health and medical professionals. This talk will provide background on what the research shows about the kinds of reactions that people receive from others when disclosing sexual assault, the factors that make receiving harmful reactions more likely, and the consequences of harmful reactions on women’s coping and mental health. Lastly, it will present guidelines for both professionals and community members on supportive responses to provide and harmful responses to avoid to promote better outcomes for survivors of sexual assault.
Presenter: Mark R. Relyea, PhD, is a community psychologist and statistician at VA Connecticut Healthcare System, and Associate Research Scientist at Yale School of Medicine. His focus is on understanding how to prevent sexual assault and harassment and improve outcomes for survivors. Dr. Relyea’s current research seeks to understand the frequency, consequences, and predictors of patients’ harassment towards staff and other patients within healthcare systems and the utility of bystander intervention training to address patient harassment.