A Narrative Analysis Of Women's Adaptation Following Sexual Assault
Sexual assault against women violates every area of their lives: safety, security, physical health, and social status. Available evidence is inadequate to guide interventions to promote effective adaptation following assault. No studies have been found specifically on sexual assault of women from the perspective of the affected woman. The purpose of this study was to describe the narratives and coping strategies of women who have been sexually assaulted. The study questions and analysis were framed using Roy's Adaptation model. Narrative analysis was the research design used to examine stories of the women's experiences after sexual assault and how the women's lives have been affected. Women (n=12) were recruited from flyers distributed to apartments, residence halls, women's shelters, and university classroom buildings. Following the semi-structured interview, each woman completed a short demographic survey. The participants ranged in age from 21 to 59 years and half were from minority groups. Interviews were transcribed and the data were analyzed for themes in the women's stories. Themes emerging from the stories reflected four chapters: the prologue, the event, the aftermath, and the present. The prologue was how the women described themselves before the assault. The prologue involved the two main themes: violated trust and unsuspecting. The aftermath incorporated what the women did immediately after the assault: seeking safety and security, seeking support, stress in their body, survivor mode, and adaptive mode. In the present, the women's lives today were either stuck in the past or taking back control. The themes and chapters were further analyzed in the context of Roy's Adaptation Model. The women who were taking back control reflected integrated adaptation, while the stories of the women who were stuck in the past were consistent with compromised adaptation.The women lived in one geographical area, three counties in a metropolitan area. Although half of the women were ethnic minorities, none of them were African American or Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders. Recruitment extended beyond the university, but seven women were college students, further limiting the diversity of the sample.Women's stories included several possible services and interventions that may help other women who have experienced an assault. They recommended dissemination of pamphlets educating the public on sexual assault and services for women and on the use of therapy dogs for recovering sexual assault victims; additional training for healthcare workers and hospital staff in how to deal with sexually assaulted women; and the preparation of websites on which it would be easier to locate counseling services and healthcare agencies specializing in sexual assault. The women recommended along with the additional training of healthcare professionals, the development of screening tools to identify physical violence and sexual and methods to provide follow-up care of the women treated for sexual assault. Several of the women also felt creative expression such as art and journaling had helped them process the event and move forward with their lives. Future proposed studies would include the study of women abused as a child into adulthood, secondary victims and their needs, and the differences between men and women's coping and adaptation following a sexual assault. Additional studies evaluating the effectiveness of creative expression strategies, comparing the effectiveness of trauma-focused psychotherapy with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing are recommended.