Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Lizabeth Roemer

Second Advisor

Alice Carter

Third Advisor

Amy Street


Women who have been sexually victimized have been found to be at greater risk than never-victimized women to be sexually victimized again (Cloitre & Rosenberg, 1998). Risk detection difficulties have been implicated as an important risk factor in sexual revictimization, with studies finding that increased latency to risk detection both correlates with victimization status and predicts future victimization. Findings from existing revictimization research highlight the potential roles of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and emotion regulation difficulties in impairing risk detection and adaptive behavioral responding to threat. This study sought to clarify the impact of emotion suppression, emotional acceptance, and posttraumatic stress symptomatology on risk detection abilities in sexual assault survivors. Forty-eight survivors of sexual assault were assigned to either an emotion suppression, an emotion acceptance, or a no-instruction control condition and completed two computerized risk detection tasks, one safety perception task, an open-ended behavioral responding task, and an assessment of PTSD symptoms experienced during the tasks. Participants in the suppression condition endorsed later leave-taking on the acquaintance risk task with medium-sized effects (though not statistically significant). There were no differences between groups to report discomfort on the acquaintance and stranger risk tasks or to report leave-taking on the stranger risk task. On the open-ended task, individuals in the acceptance condition were significantly more likely to endorse more adaptive precautionary behaviors than individuals in the suppression and control conditions. Compared to individuals in the acceptance and control conditions, individuals in the suppression condition displayed diminished emotional recovery with medium-sized effects (though not statistically significant). Neither avoidance scores nor hyperarousal scores endorsed after the risk tasks correlated significantly with latency to report discomfort or leave-taking on the acquaintance and stranger risk tasks, but individuals who endorsed premature leave taking on the acquaintance risk task endorsed higher hyperarousal scores than individuals who did not endorse leaving before risk cues were presented. Given preliminary findings that suppression may hamper and acceptance may facilitate risk detection and adaptive behavioral responding to threat, survivors of sexual assault may reduce their likelihood of revictimization by engaging in acceptance-based treatments for PTSD.


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