A Review Of Personal Relationships After Sexual Victimization A Review of Relationships After Sexual Victimization Abstract Flangan and Furman conducted two studies to examine the links between sexual victimization and perceptions of romantic, parental, and peer relationships. An attachment perspective is proposed for understanding the impact of sexual victimization on close relationships for both high school and college students. Many adolescent and young women experience some form of undesired or forced sexual experience with strangers or acquaintances. Anything from unwanted touching to rape would be considered a forced sexual encounter. The literature on college and older women shows that numerous psychological and sexual dysfunctions are prevalent in rape victims. Psychological symptoms include feelings of fear, anger, embarrassment, humiliation, depression, and self blame in rape victims.
Less sexual satisfaction, arousal, and fear of sex are some of the sexual symptoms experienced by victims. The first and foremost important effect of sexual victimization is distrust of others. Women victims may fear or be hostile towards men, which makes it difficult to establish and build a meaningful relationship. Adolescent victim relationships may be shorter in length because their bond with the perpetrators is not as strong as with older women. Attachment theorists have emphasized that individuals that develop expectations or representations of close relationships with their caregivers in infancy. Infants who have received sensitive care will come to see others and themselves positively, whereas those who do not will develop negative working models of others and themselves. By internalizing expectations of others based on the care received, the infant creates a basis on which to transact this and other social relationships.
Bowlby (1973) believed that these internal working models of caregivers created by children over time; moreover, they would shape subsequent close relationships. In effect, these models of caretaking relationships would serve as a basis for models of subsequent relationships.” (Thousand Oaks, 2000, p. 351) Hazan and Shaver proposed that adult romantic relationships can be thought of as attachment relationships and drew many parallels to infant and caretaker relationships. They also recognized that adult love relationships involves sexual behavior and reciprocal caregiving, two components that are non existent in infant attachment. Hazan and Shaver conceptualized that adult romantic love as the integration of three behavioral systems: attachment, caregiving, and sexual mating.
Individuals with positive experiences may develop more secure views on relationships whereas those with negative experiences may develop insecure views on relationships. “Those with secure views of romantic relationships think that they should be able to turn to their partners at times of distress, value taking care of their partners, desire to invest energy in the process of constructing mutual relationships, and value the affectionate caring elements of sexuality. Those with avoidant or dismissing views may not see their partners as someone to turn to, may have little interest in caring for their partners, may have little investment in relationships, and may see sex as an opportunity for experimentation or self gratification. Finally, those with anxious or preoccupied views may be overly concerned about their partners problems, may overly invest in relationships in a self-sacrificing manner, and may be dissatisfied with their sexual experiences.” (Thousand Oaks, 2000, p.352) Study One: Sexual Victimization In A College Sample Flangan and Furman examined the links between perceptions of relationships and sexual victimization in a sample of late-adolescent women. The data was collected from 154 undergraduate women enrolled in a private university in a large metropolitan are.
Ages ranged from 17 to 25 years. The Sexual Experiences Surveys (SES) is a commonly used measure to assess an individual’s level of victimization. For example one question read, “Have you had sex play (fondling, kissing, or petting, but not intercourse) when you didn’t want to because a man threatened or used some degree of physical force (twisting your arm, holding you down, etc.) to make you?” Results Fifty-six percent of the women reported some level of victimization. 46.8% reported unwanted sexual contact subsequent to continual arguments to 1.3% reporting unwanted sexual intercourse subsequent to misuse of a man’s authority. Seventy-four percent of those victimized reported multiple experiences of victimization.
Of those experiencing multiple incidents, 24% of the women indicated that the same person committed the incidents, whereas 76% reported that they had been victimized by more than one man. Most interesting is that the offender in 98% of the incidents were acquaintances of the victim. The late-adolescent women in study one reported more preoccupied romantic styles than non-victimized women. The views of fathers did not differ between victimized and non victimized women. The violation of trust in sexual victimization appears not to have generalized to views of mothers and friends.
I think the most substantial contribution of this article is the idea that an attachment perspective may be important to researchers for understanding the links between victimization and close relationships. References Flanigan, A., Furman, W. (Nov 2000). Sexual victimization and perceptions of close relationships in adolescence. Thousand Oaks, pp. 350-359.