Disclosing Sexual Assault Within Social Networks: A Mixed-Method Investigation

Emily R. Dworkin, Samantha L. Pittenger, Nicole E. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most survivors of sexual assault disclose their experiences within their social networks, and these disclosure decisions can have important implications for their entry into formal systems and well-being, but no research has directly examined these networks as a strategy to understand disclosure decisions. Using a mixed-method approach that combined survey data, social network analysis, and interview data, we investigate whom, among potential informal responders in the social networks of college students who have experienced sexual assault, survivors contact regarding their assault, and how survivors narrate the role of networks in their decisions about whom to contact. Quantitative results suggest that characteristics of survivors, their social networks, and members of these networks are associated with disclosure decisions. Using data from social network analysis, we identified that survivors tended to disclose to a smaller proportion of their network when many network members had relationships with each other or when the network had more subgroups. Our qualitative analysis helps to contextualize these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-228
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of community psychology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 2016


  • Disclosure
  • Help-seeking
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Social network analysis
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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