Graduation Year

2016

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

Reader 1

Jennifer Ma

Reader 2

Jennifer Groscup

Rights Information

© 2015 Rebecca R. Gilbert

Abstract

The current trauma literature lacks adequate differentiation between the effects of sexual versus non-sexual trauma on stimuli responses as well as analyses of the college campus as a uniquely challenging environment for rape survivors. In the first study, 66 adults (22 with sexual trauma experience, 22 with non-sexual trauma experience, and 22 with no significant trauma experience) will be exposed to vignettes with threat-generalized, rape-related or neutral stimuli and their arousal rates in response to these cues will be recorded using Galvanic Skin Response and Heart Rate. It is expected that individuals who have experienced sexual assault will show more arousal in response to the rape-related stimuli than the threat-generalized stimuli. In the second study, 44 college age females who have been sexually assaulted (22 living on a college campus, 22 living off of a college campus) will be exposed to the same vignette conditions as in the first study. These women will also be asked to rate their daily/weekly exposure to certain situations or objects representative of the college environment. It is expected that individuals with a higher exposure to rape culture score will be more aroused by the rape-related stimuli. Mowrer’s two-factor theory of learning (1956) along with the shame (Feldner et al., 2010) accompanying sexual trauma suggests that sexually assaulted individuals will exhibit higher levels of arousal to the rape-related stimuli rather than the threat-generalized stimuli, as other trauma victims might.

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