JACOBY, LIVA HERZ; PHD

                         UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, 1983

                         SOCIAL WORK (0452)

                         The goals of the present study are to examine the nature of informal social support systems among a
                         group of victims of sexual assault, and the effect such support has on the victims' social and
                         psychological adjustment. Another goal is to assess the long-term impact of the assault on the victims'
                         adjustment. One hundred and six victims of sexual assault, above the age of 18, were interviewed for the
                         study. The sample was not randomized and is not representative of the total population of sexual assault
                         victims. A semi-structured interview schedule was used. The present study is quantitative - descriptive in
                         nature. Regression analysis, and its extension, path analysis were used to test the hypotheses. Based
                         on existing theories and recent research evidence, several hypotheses were formulated, centering
                         around three dimensions of social support: quality, size and network configuration. The assumptions
                         were that higher network quality and larger social networks would lessen the negative impact of the
                         assault. It was also proposed that victims who lived with their family of origin and with friends would have
                         an easier adjustment than those living alone or with their spouses or boyfriends. Of these three
                         hypotheses, only the latter was supported. Regarding the impact of the assault on the victims' social
                         support, two hypotheses were developed: size as well as quality of their social network would decrease
                         subsequent to the assault. Only the hypothesis concerning network quality was confirmed. The changes
                         in household composition were examined at an exploratory level. The most marked change over time
                         was a drop of 50% of women who lived with their families of origin. The results of analyzing the long-term
                         social and psychological impact of the assault on the victims showed a definite pattern of fluctuating and
                         long-lasting symptoms. Depicting the pattern of formal and informal support over time showed that both
                         types of support leveled off before the two year period and remained relatively low afterwards. The
                         implications of this finding in relation to crisis theory is of importance and should receive further attention.
                         The general implications of the present research findings for research and social work practice are
                         discussed at the end of the report.


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