Behavioral Responses and Risk Detection in Sexual Encounters: A Study on the Effects of Social Anxiety and a Brief Intervention
Schry, Amie R.
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Sexual victimization among college women is a common problem. This two-part study sought to examine social interaction anxiety as a risk factor of sexual victimization and to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a computer-based risk reduction program. A total of 1095 undergraduate females completed an online survey to assess social anxiety as a risk factor (study part I), a subsample of whom (n = 136, including 51 above the clinical cutoff on a social anxiety measure and 85 below the cutoff) completed the subsequent in-lab study (study part II). During study part II, participants were randomly assigned to either receive a computer-based risk reduction program or an educational program on campus resources (control condition), and their predicted use of resistance techniques was assessed both before and after their assigned program. Participants also responded to an audio recording of a sexual assault vignette to assess risk detection. After controlling for past victimization and depression, social interaction anxiety was not related to predicted use of assertive resistance techniques or to risk detection. However, social anxiety positively predicted use of passive resistance techniques at the lowest level of unwanted sexual advances (i.e., breast fondling) in a series of three escalating sexual advances (i.e., breast fondling, genital fondling, and rape threat). No participants dropped out of the study, and ratings on a questionnaire assessing acceptability of the risk reduction program were positive. Program condition predicted change scores for predicted use of assertive resistance at a low level of unwanted sexual advances (i.e., breast fondling) such that the control group decreased in predicted use of assertive resistance significantly more than the risk reduction program group. Additionally, the risk reduction program group had significantly better risk detection compared to the control group. Therefore, support for the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of the risk reduction program was found. The finding that the control group decreased significantly more than the risk reduction program group in assertive resistance between the two story administrations is important because assertive resistance techniques tend to be the most effective in reducing risk of completed sexual victimization. Therefore, it is important that risk reduction programs encourage women to use assertive resistance. Clinical implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.
- Doctoral Dissertations