Date of Award

1-2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Doris J. Ravotas

Abstract

This study describes Latina women’s experiences of sexual assault disclosure. The research questions are: (1) What reasons do Latinas give for choosing to disclose, not to disclose, or to delay disclosure of their experiences of sexual assault? (2) Can patterns be detected regarding to whom Latinas disclose and under what circumstances? (3) What feelings and consequences do Latinas remember experiencing during their initial disclosure? (4) In retrospect, how do Latinas interpret their self-disclosure decisions? Participants for this study agreed to be interviewed about their sexual assault experiences. Seven interviews were gathered in 2005 and six in 2011. A constant comparison approach was used with the transcribed interviews to discern recurrent significant themes. Similar to earlier research, all 13 participants had been sexually assaulted as children; most were assaulted by known perpetrators; and those who delayed disclosure cited reasons such as fear, family shame, avoidance, and self-blame. Furthermore, as in earlier research, taboos on talking about sex limited the awareness Latinas had with regard to sexual assault. In this study, some Latinas identified ignorance as a reason for not disclosing or delaying disclosure. Many of the women in this study identified complicated mother and daughter relationship dynamics that prevented disclosures. Similar to earlier research, participants more frequently disclosed to family members or friends for emotional support rather than to professionals. Some Latinas disclosed for protection of self and others. Some reported feeling spoiled for marriage, silenced, and disbelieved. This study adds information to the literature about feelings experienced during the initial disclosure—regret, shame, and negative judgment of self. Many of the women in this study demonstrated that they had transcended the trauma of their sexual assault. This provides direct evidence confirming assumptions from prior research in which psychotherapists were the interviewees. This study contributes Latinas’ voices to the literature on sexual assault disclosure. It points to the need for further research on social services interventions to empower Latina sexual assault survivors.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access