Sexual Assault, Mental Health, and Alcohol Use in College Women: The Role of Resilience and Campus Belonging

Madison K. Firkey, Lyric K. Tully, Ashley M. Schiros, Kevin M. Antshel, Sarah E. Woolf-King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Understanding the mental health outcomes of sexual assault among college women is a public health priority. Although research has identified risk factors for the development of mental health problems following an assault, few studies have utilized a strengths-based approach to identify personal and social resources that may mediate the sexual assault–mental health link. Prior studies allude to the role of resilience and perceived campus belonging in explaining the relationship between sexual assault and mental health. This study represents the first application of the stress process model using a large sample of college women to examine (a) the association between sexual assault and mental health (i.e., psychological distress, suicidality, self-harm) and alcohol use problems and (b) the role of resilience and perceived campus belonging as partial mediators of these associations. Data were collected as part of the Spring 2021 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA; n = 31,328, Mean age = 20.26, SD = 1.64, 58.8% White), a cross-sectional, online survey that samples college students from 143 self-selected United States colleges. To test our primary hypothesis, a structural regression model was conducted, which included a latent sexual assault predictor, manifest resilience and campus belonging mediators, a latent mental health outcome, and a manifest alcohol use problems outcome. Mental health and alcohol use problems were positively associated with sexual assault and negatively associated with resilience and campus belonging. Resilience partially mediated the association between sexual assault and mental health. Campus belonging partially mediated the association between sexual assault, mental health, and alcohol use problems. This model explained 23.2% of the variance in mental health and 5.9% of the variance in alcohol use. Resilience and campus belonging may represent modifiable factors that can be targeted in trauma-focused interventions in efforts to improve victimized college women’s mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7990-8015
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Volume38
Issue number13-14
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Keywords

  • adult victims
  • alcohol and drugs
  • mental health and violence
  • sexual assault

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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