The purpose of this study was to examine college women’s self-labeling as a victim or a survivor following a sexual assault and describe the relationship of self-labeling with mental health, self-blame, control over recovery, and help-seeking.
This cross-sectional study collected data in an online anonymous survey in November and December of 2018. Participants (N = 375) were recruited from two public universities, were 18- to 24-year-old undergraduate students, identified as female, and had experienced a sexual assault since entering college.
Most respondents (46.4%, 174/375) chose labels other than victim or survivor. Statistically significant differences were found between choice of label (survivor, victim, or other) and depression, well-being, characterological self-blame, and perceived control over recovery. Short-answer responses revealed three major themes for alternative labels: choosing no label, normalizing, and seeking congruence.
As when caring for a patient with any diagnosis, nurses and other healthcare providers should see a person—not a patient, a survivor, or a victim.