Sexual Risk Behaviors and sexual Functioning Among African American and European American Victims of Sexual Assault
College women are at increased risk for experiencing unwanted and nonconsensual sex including attempted and completed rape (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000; Krebs et al., 2009). Many sexual assault victims experience negative mental and behavioral health outcomes, such as depression, PTSD, and binge drinking (Brenner et al., 1999; Gidycz et al., 2008; MessmanMoore et al., 2005). Sexual victimization is also associated with widespread disruptions in sexual behavior including avoidance of intercourse as well as increased engagement in sexual risk behaviors, such as having more uncommitted sexual partners (e.g., having sex with someone with whom you do not have a prior relationship) and impulsive sexual behavior (e.g., leaving a social event with someone new; Campbell, Sefl, & Ahrens, 2004; Gidycz et al., 2008; Littleton et al., 2013). Although prior research has found that victims of sexual assault engage in more sexual risk behaviors than non-victims, it is unclear how these risk behaviors relate to sexual functioning and sexual satisfaction. Additionally, existent research has largely ignored the role of culture in perceptions and experiences of sexual encounters. The majority of studies have almost exclusively included White European American women and have largely ignored those of minority women. Therefore, this thesis aimed to address current gaps in the literature by examining the relationship between engagement in risky sexual behavior and sexual health among victims of sexual assault. Additionally, this thesis aimed to compare the experiences of European American and African American victims. Participants included 203 European American and 25 African American college women who reported a past sexual assault (rape or attempted rape) since the age of 14, and who reported being sexually active within the last 6 months. Participants were recruited through the ECU Psychology department online participant recruitment system and completed an online survey of unwanted sexual experiences, sexual behaviors, adjustment, and sexual functioning. Results suggested that engagement in impulsive sexual behavior predicted less satisfaction and, to a lesser extent, greater dysfunction among victims. However, sex with uncommitted partners only predicted lower satisfaction among victims and was unrelated to sexual functioning. There were no racial differences in engagement in sexual risk behaviors, affect regulation sexual motives, or sexual risk behaviors. Additionally, race did not moderate the relationship between sexual risk behaviors and sexual health. These findings suggest that victims who engage in impulsive and uncommitted sex derive less pleasure and satisfaction from these sexual experiences likely because female pleasure is not prioritized in casual sexual encounters. In comparison, victims who engage in risky sexual behavior do not report greater dysfunction possibly because heavy alcohol consumption associated with casual sexual behavior may reduce the psychological and physiological distress associated with sexual dysfunction. The lack of differences in sexual experiences found between European American and African American victims may result from overall demographic similarities, such as age, grade level, and geographic location, between the two groups. Implications for these findings suggest that sexual health, particularly sexual satisfaction, should be addressed as a component of treatment for victims of sexual assault.
Layh, Marlee. (December 2017). Sexual Risk Behaviors and sexual Functioning Among African American and European American Victims of Sexual Assault (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6525.)
Layh, Marlee. Sexual Risk Behaviors and sexual Functioning Among African American and European American Victims of Sexual Assault. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, December 2017. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6525. August 17, 2022.
Layh, Marlee, “Sexual Risk Behaviors and sexual Functioning Among African American and European American Victims of Sexual Assault” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, December 2017).
Layh, Marlee. Sexual Risk Behaviors and sexual Functioning Among African American and European American Victims of Sexual Assault [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; December 2017.
East Carolina University
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