Reconstructing Meaning After Sexual Assault

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter reviews research on four components of meaning making following sexual assault and interventions addressing these components. Several findings emerged. First, self-blame is associated with more distress, whereas focusing on what can be controlled in the present (e.g., the recovery process) is associated with less distress. Second, survivors often report that their beliefs about themselves, others, and the world changed in a negative direction following the assault; having more negative beliefs is in turn associated with reporting more distress. Third, survivors often report positive life changes, particularly more compassion. Finally, cognitive processing therapy was specifically designed to help sexual assault survivors reduce their fear and change the meaning of the event and has been shown to be effective in several studies, with treatment gains maintained 5-10. years posttreatment. Online interventions that increase perceived control also show promise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReconstructing Meaning After Trauma
Subtitle of host publicationTheory, Research, and Practice
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780128030363
ISBN (Print)9780128030158
StatePublished - Jan 4 2017


  • Interventions
  • Meaning
  • Perceived control
  • Posttraumatic growth
  • Self-blame
  • Sexual assault
  • World assumptions


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