Date of Award

5-9-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Sarah L. Cook, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Kevin M. Swartout, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Erin B. Tone, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Julia L. Perilla, Ph.D.

Abstract

Many women experience sexual violence, but bisexual women are at particularly high risk for such victimization. Theories attempting to explain women’s risk for sexual violence have focused on numerous risk factors (e.g., childhood abuse, substance use, sexual risk behavior, among others); however, many of these factors have not been explored with sexual minority survivors. The current study used multiple groups path analysis within a structural equation modeling framework in order to test a theory-driven model of victimization risk, first among a general sample of women, and then among subsamples of heterosexual, lesbian, and bisexual women. The prospective model included childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse as three separate exogenous variables; sexual risk behavior, alcohol use, and drug use as separate mediators; and a count-based adult sexual victimization score as the outcome. The prospective model was trimmed until it best represented the observed data for the full sample, which saw the inclusion of childhood sexual and physical abuse as the only exogenous variables, sexual risk behavior as the only mediating variable, and adult sexual victimization as the outcome. Sexual risk behavior mediated the relationship between both childhood abuse variables and adult sexual victimization for the general sample of women. However, within the multiple groups model, sexual risk behavior mediated the relationship between childhood physical abuse and adult sexual victimization among bisexual women only. A mediational relationship between childhood sexual abuse and adult sexual victimization via sexual risk behavior approached significance among bisexual women only. A second-stage moderating effect approached significance whereby the relationship between sexual risk behavior and adult victimization was stronger for heterosexual women than for bisexual women. Additionally, the direct effect of childhood sexual abuse on adult sexual victimization was stronger for lesbian women than for bisexual women. Relationships among variables and the novel and unique findings pertaining to bisexual women’s victimization risk are framed as the compounding effect of childhood trauma and social stigmatization of bisexuality. Implications and future directions are described.

Available for download on Thursday, April 19, 2018

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