A Qualitative Study of Sexual Assault Disclosure Impact and Help-Seeking on Support Providers

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Friends, family, and significant others who receive disclosures of sexual assault from survivors are also susceptible to the effects of trauma. Most studies on the impact of sexual assault disclosure focus on the experiences of friends of survivors but not significant others or family members, and do not examine support providers' (SPs) help-seeking behaviors. This study of 45 matched pairs of sexual assault survivors and SPs explored the impact of receiving a disclosure and dealing with the emotional weight of these disclosures. SPs were impacted emotionally and in post-disclosure behaviors. SPs reported feeling sadness, were triggered, felt angry, and felt inspired by survivors' disclosures. Active cognitive and behavioral reactions included care-taking of survivors and engaging in prevention. SPs discussed different ways they sought help to deal with the disclosure and why they did or did not seek help post-disclosure. We provide recommendations for SPs and service providers using this data from a diverse, community sample.

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