Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Orcutt, Holly K.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Following a sexual assault, many survivors choose to disclose the experience to others. More commonly, these conversations occur between friends, family members, or significant others, but survivors may also disclose to professionals, such as law enforcement and medical professionals. Unfortunately, support providers often do not respond supportively to disclosing survivors, and unsupportive acknowledgement and turning-against reactions are common. Extant literature has overwhelmingly indicated that these negative reactions have lasting detrimental effects on survivors, including leading to increased symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other adverse outcomes. Although social support and PTSD theories converge to suggest that negative disclosure experiences may be detrimental because of their impact on appraisals, to date this has not been examined empirically. Moreover, although existing literature on disclosure has provided an important basis for interventions aimed at reducing the occurrence of these negative reactions, it is also critical to examine mechanisms that may ameliorate the impact of negative reactions that continue to occur at high rates. Cognitive bias modification (CBM) is an intervention that has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD by training individuals to adopt positively biased appraisals about stressful situations. The current study sought to examine the use of CBM appraisal training at reducing the harmful impact of negative sexual assault disclosure reactions by comparing changes in trauma appraisals following participation in positive CBM training. As expected based on previous research, CBM was effective at improving trauma appraisals over a one-week follow-up (F[1] = 11.51, p = .002, d = 1.18); however, there were no group differences based on post-assault supportive experiences as hypothesized. Potential explanations for null findings, implications, and recommendations for future research are discussed.


166 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type