The Role of Substance Use and Emotion Dysregulation in Predicting Risk for Incapacitated Sexual Revictimization in Women: Results of a Prospective Investigation

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Abstract

Incapacitated sexual assault (ISA) is the most common form of sexual victimization experienced by college women. Although ISA victims are at risk for future assaults, few studies have examined mechanisms responsible for ISA revictimization besides heavy drinking. Using a prospective design, the present study examined whether emotion dysregulation, given its association with interpersonal trauma and substance use, increases risk for revictimization among women with a history of ISA above and beyond the effects of substance use. Female college students (n = 229) completed a baseline assessment followed by assessment of incapacitated sexual assault over a 9-week follow-up period. Approximately 36% of participants reported a history of ISA, and 73% of those victimized during the study had a history of ISA. Revictimized women reported higher levels of alcohol-related problems, greater marijuana use, greater emotion dysregulation, and higher levels of fear and guilt prior to experiencing ISA during the study; however, they did not consume more alcohol than previously victimized women. In a logistic regression analysis, guilt, emotion dysregulation, and marijuana use accurately classified 78.9% of ISA revictimized women. Women with a history of ISA are at substantial risk for ISA revictimization. Findings suggest that even very small increases in emotion dysregulation, particularly in impulsivity, as well as marijuana use, impact revictimization risk substantially. Efficacy of interventions to reduce ISA revictimization may be improved if emotion dysregulation is addressed.

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