Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


This study investigated individual rape reactions from the perspective of personal construct theory. Structured interviews which included both traditional survey devices and repertory grids were held with eight adult female sexual assault victims. The present study attempted to identify and examine the meaning of the rape experience for both victims of stranger and acquaintance rape. Subjects participating in this study were six acquaintance rape victims, one victim of stranger rape and one incest victim. Because only one stranger rape victim participated, hypotheses regarding a comparison of the effects of stranger and acquaintance rape were not able to be investigated. Other hypotheses were tested, however, pertaining to the acquaintance rape victim group. Results of the study indicate that the rape event results in lowered self-esteem, feelings of self-blame and difficulty trusting others. Subjects who received psychological treatment did not report significantly fewer or less severe trauma symptoms than those who received treatment. All subjects reported they continue to experience some trauma symptoms presently, even after 3 - 40 years after the rape. Victims reported increased substance abuse, sleep disturbances and eating disorders. None of the acquaintance rape victims questioned reported their rape; none told any other person for a period of months to several years. The subjects did seem to feel somewhat distant from other people, but did not express feeling closer or more similar to other victims, as was predicted. Finally, results indicate that personal construct theory and repertory grids are useful in the assessment of sexual assault victims. The grids reveal information that may not be obtained through traditional methods such as interviewing and questionnaires. This information includes the subject's organizing concepts, how similar she feels to others, her self- esteem, cognitive complexity, tendency to see things as "black and white" (through the extremity scores), and how the subject feels she has changed since the traumatic event. This is information that could be extremely useful in planning and carrying out treatment for the victim.


Robert Markley

Date of Award

Fall 1992

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1992 MaryAlice Wade


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