Rape Acknowledgment and Sexual Minority Identity: The Indirect Effect of Rape Myth Acceptance

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Despite preliminary literature suggesting that individuals who identify as sexual minorities evidence lower rates of unacknowledged rape than those who identify as heterosexual (Anderson, Wandrey, Klossner, Cahill, & Delahanty, 2017), little research has been dedicated to elucidating this finding. The present study examined the rates of unacknowledged rape based on sexual minority status. Rape myth acceptance was examined as a potential mechanism that may account for any observed differences. Students at a large public university in the Southeastern United States completed an online survey of unwanted sexual experiences, rape acknowledgment, and rape myth acceptance; the 298 individuals who experienced a rape since Age 14 were included. Individuals who identified as sexual minorities were significantly more likely to be acknowledged survivors (i.e., conceptualized their experience as rape) than those who identified as heterosexual. The indirect effect of sexual minority status on rape acknowledgment via rape myth acceptance was significant such that individuals who identified as sexual minorities were more likely to reject rape myths, which, in turn, was associated with greater odds of being an acknowledged rape survivor. Clinicians who treat survivors of sexual trauma should be prepared to work with individuals who identify as sexual minorities, given that they are more likely to experience sexual trauma and conceptualize their victimization as rape.

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