Self-compassion, unwanted sexual experiences, and revictimization among college students
Gameon, Julie Ann
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Sexual assault is a common problem on college campuses and women between the ages of 18 and 24 are at greatest risk, with 20-25% of female college students experiencing a sexual assault in any given year, compared to 5-6% of male college students. When conducting sexual assault research among college students, it is important to consider risk factors that contribute to revictimization and protective factors that buffer against negative outcomes. Although research has shown the effect of self-compassion on many of the negative outcomes associated with sexual victimization, little work has been conducted with a population of sexual assault survivors. In Study 1, participants with a history of unwanted sexual experiences (N = 16) completed a packet of surveys and a semi-structured interview about coping with and healing from their experience. The interview transcripts reflected many of the key domains of self-compassion, suggesting the need for additional research to understand the association between self-compassion and healing from unwanted sexual experiences. In Study 2, introduction to psychology students (N = 231) completed a battery of measurements to assess their sexual victimization history and associated negative outcomes, as well as protective factors including self-compassion. Analyses tested the hypothesis that greater self-compassion would predict less sexual revictimization among those who reported an unwanted sexual experience earlier in life. Although previous unwanted sexual experiences were positively associated with recent unwanted sexual experiences, there was neither a direct nor indirect effect through self-compassion. Findings from Study 1 suggest that different facets of self-compassion represent factors that both help and hinder coping and healing following an unwanted sexual experience. Although Study 2 failed to find a significant relationship between self-compassion and revictimization, self-compassion was associated with other variables previously shown to predict sexual assault and revictimization. More research is needed to understand the role of self-compassion in healing from sexual trauma and preventing revictimization.