University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
The present study aims to understand the reasons behind a survivor’s decision to report or not report their experience(s) of sexual assault and identify themes involved in the decision-making process. While there are numerous quantitative studies that examine the factors around a survivor's decision to report or not report their sexual assault account(s), the qualitative perspective on this topic is lacking among the literature. Using a qualitative approach, the purpose of this study seeks to answer the following research question: what factors influence sexual assault survivors' decision to report or not report their experience? We hypothesized that individuals who reported their sexual assault experience(s) would be more likely to benefit from access to resources and support for coping. We also predicted that individuals who did not report their sexual assault experience(s) would be more likely to experience negative consequences due to a lack of resources and support for coping. Our aim was to identify predictors delineating those survivors who decide to report from those who do not. Participants in this study were asked to complete the Sexual Experiences Survey (Koss & Oros, 1982) followed by a researcher-conducted qualitative interview. The interview, which was administered through an open-ended questionnaire and virtual one-on-one interviews, assessed the actual factors involved in the survivor's decision to report or not report their experience. Our results showed participants were most likely to disclose when they felt emotionally safe (i.e., would not be judged) and supported, whereas participants were least likely to disclose to avoid judgment.
I would like to thank my mentors, Dr. Alexandra Zelin and Dr. Hannah Osborn, for providing me with their guidance and patience throughout this whole process. Their expertise, skills, and encouragement supported this project, and I am endlessly appreciative of all of their help. Additionally, I would like to say thank you to the URaCE office for making this project possible by providing funding through the SEARCH award. Thank you, Angela Kruck, Karah Sharp, and Audrey Pennington for your contribution and working alongside me, as well.
B. S.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Science.
Sex crimes; Sexual abuse victims
Swaney, Sarah, "Factors impacting the decision to report sexual assault: a qualitative study" (2021). Honors Theses.