Research has documented the profound negative impact of betrayal within experiences of interpersonal trauma such as sexual assault (Freyd, 1994, 1996; Freyd, DePrince, & Gleaves, 2007). In the current study of college women (N = 345, 79% Caucasian; mean age = 19.69 years, SD = 2.55), we examined whether institutional failure to prevent sexual assault or respond supportively when it occurs may similarly exacerbate posttraumatic symptomatology-what we call "institutional betrayal." Almost half (47%) of the women reported at least one coercive sexual experience and another 21% reported no coercion, but at least one unwanted sexual experience (total reporting unwanted sexual experiences, N = 233). Institutional betrayal (e.g., creating an environment where these experiences seemed more likely, making it difficult to report these experiences) was reported across different unwanted sexual experiences (47% and 45% of women reporting coercion and no coercion, respectively). Those women who reported institutional betrayal surrounding their unwanted sexual experience reported increased levels of anxiety (R2 = .10), trauma-specific sexual symptoms (R2 = .17), dissociation (R2 = .11), and problematic sexual functioning (R2 = .12). These results suggest that institutions have the power to cause additional harm to assault survivors.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health