Some victims may not acknowledge that rape occurred because they did not have strong emotional reactions either during the assault itself, after the assault, or both. Acknowledged victims, on the other hand, may have experienced intense emotional reactions that helped them define their experience as rape. Research has shown that women who seek assis­tance from agencies following a rape report severe distress, fear, anxiety, depression, lowered self-esteem, and self-blame (Branscombe, Owen, & Al­lison, 1995; Janoff-Bulman, 1979; Janoff-Bulman & Timko, 1987; Koss, 1993; Koss & Burkhart, 1989). These reactions are reflective of posttrau­matic stress disorder (Rothbaum, Foa, Riggs, Murdock, &. Walsh, 1992) and often last for several months or years (Hanson, 1990; Resick, 1987). Women who seek help from rape crisis centers, social service agencies, or hospitals also tend to label their experience as rape (Pitts &. Schwartz, 1993). Thus, it appears that severe emotional reactions are associated with help-seeking behavior that in turn is associated with rape acknowledgment. We must be cautious, however, when drawing conclusions about the rela­tionship between severity of emotional reaction and rape acknowledgment based primarily on women who have sought help because there is a con­found that makes causal relationships difficult to assess. More specifically, compared with victims of acquaintance rape, victims of stranger rape are more likely to seek help or tell the police (Koss, Dinero, Seibel, & Cox, 1988; Pitts & Schwartz, 1993). Victims of stranger rape also tend to have experienced a more violent rape, feel more victimized, and are more likely to see their experience as rape (Koss et al., 1988). Thus, when using data from help seekers, it is difficult to determine whether it was their intense emotional reaction, the fact that the assailant was a stranger, or the higher level of violence that led these women to label their experience as rape.

To explore further the relationship between emotional reaction and rape acknowledgment, Andreoli Mathie and Kahn (1995) asked partici­pants to indicate from 1 (not at all) to 7 (a great deal) the extent to which they felt a number of emotions at the time of their rape experience. These emotions and the mean endorsement for acknowledged and unacknowl­edged victims are listed in Table 3. The items were later grouped into three categories—self-blame, feelings of victimization, and negative affect—and the items in each group were summed to provide scores for total self-blame, total victimization, and total negative affect. Table 3 shows that acknowl­edged victims reported experiencing greater feelings of victimization and more negative affect than unacknowledged victims. The two groups did not differ on their feelings of self-blame. Covariance analyses also revealed that differences in feelings of victimization and negative affect remained even when level of force, whether measured by the total weighted force score, the victim’s perceived level of force, or the victim’s weighted resis­tance score, was held constant. These findings suggest that acknowledged victims differed from unacknowledged victims in their emotional reaction, with more intense reactions predictive of rape acknowledgment.

TABLE З

Mean Affective Reactions of Acknowledged and Unacknowledged Rape Victims to Their Assault

Item

Acknowledged

Unacknowledged

Significance

Total Self-Blame

28.73

26.17

.059

Responsible

4.69

4.71

NS

Guilty

5.42

5.04

NS

Ashamed

6.39

5.09

.001

Angry at Self

5.73

5.38

NS

Regretful

6.50

6.00

NS

Total Victimized

37.19

30.44

.001

Victimized

5.69

4.11

.001

Degraded

6.35

5.36

.015

Not Strong

6.19

5.33

.036

Not in Control

6.58

6.07

NS

Violated

6.31

4.96

.002

Betrayed

6.08

4.53

.001

Total Negative Affect

46.39

34.94

.001

Sad

6.35

5.18

.005

Angry

5.73

5.04

NS

Dirty

6.08

4.53

.001

Shock

5.89

4.07

.001

Hysterical

4.15

2.33

.001

Confused

6.27

4.49

.001

Afraid

5.77

3.78

.001

Embarrassed

6.15

5.38

NS

Note. The higher the mean the more of the characteristic the women reported feeling on a scale of 1 to 7. For individual items, Multivariate F{23,47) = 2.13, p < .05. For composite scores, Multivariate F(3,68) = 7.90, p < .001.

A similar pattern of responses was found for the victims’ reactions following the assault. The items and the mean responses (on 7-point scales) for acknowledged and unacknowledged victims are shown in Table 4. Table 4 shows that acknowledged victims reported stronger and more negative reactions to their assault experience than did unacknowledged victims. Ac­knowledged victims not only reported feeling worse after the assault, but also reported more life disruptions (nightmares, lost time from work and school, and suicidal thoughts). It is not clear whether labeling their ex­perience as rape led to these negative reactions following the assault, or whether the negative emotional experience and life disruptions led these women to acknowledge their experience as rape.