The Role of Ethnic Identity in Exposure, Acknowledgment and Adjustment After Rape in Black Females
Most current literature has ignored the impact of exposure to rape, acknowledgement of the event as such, and psychological adjustment after rape on Black women. This study examines whether the basic relationships that have been established with predominately White samples replicate in a Black female sample. Importantly, the current study also explores whether ethnic identity moderates the aforementioned relationships.
Black females were recruited from two universities, one predominately White and one historically Black, to participate in a web-based survey. Participants were recruited via departmental and university listservs, university-related research posts, psychology departments, and flyers. Three hundred sixteen eligible respondents completed the survey, with data collected over a three semester period. Participants completed demographic information, measures of ethnic identity, negative sexual experiences, anxiety, depression, and social support. Those who endorsed having had an experience that met the legal definition of rape in adolescence or adulthood provided further information about the characteristics of the experience, gave a label for the unwanted sexual contact, and completed a measure of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Fourteen percent of the sample reported an experience that met the legal definition of rape. Sixty-nine percent of those women were unacknowledged. Results of replication-related hypotheses regarding the relationship between exposure, acknowledgement, and adjustment yielded partial support. The data supported that exposure to rape was related to psychological adjustment. Evidence was found that victims had higher anxiety and depression symptomatology than non-victims. There were mixed findings regarding acknowledgment status and psychological adjustment. The data failed to support the hypothesis that acknowledged and unacknowledged victims significantly differ on depression, anxiety, or PTSD scores. The data did support that acknowledged women experienced more psychological distress than non-victims. There were mixed findings regarding acknowledgment status and features of the exposure. Contrary to the hypothesis and previous research, there was not evidence that unacknowledged women and acknowledged women differ in terms of relationship to the offender and level of force or resistance used during the assault. Moderation hypotheses were partially supported. Data failed to support the hypothesis that ethnic identity moderates the relationship between exposure to rape and depression, anxiety, or social support. Evidence was not found that ethnic identity moderates the relationship between acknowledgement status and social support, depression, or anxiety. There was evidence that ethnic identity moderates the relationship between acknowledgement status and PTSD symptoms. Consistent with the hypotheses, results suggest that ethnic identity is positively related to the psychological well being of Black women and may have implications for the relationship between acknowledging a rape event and PTSD symptomatology. Clinical implications, threats to internal and external validity, and future directions for research with ethnic minorities are also discussed.