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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Project: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Brown, Laurel


From the first experience with sexual assault, a victim must determine whether she will seek help or stay quiet about the incident. Victims of sexual assault are assaulted every 73 seconds in the United States. There are two types of support sources that the victims can reach should they decide to seek help: formal and informal. Formal sources consist of professionals in the community while informal sources consist of family, friends, acquaintances, and significant others. Whether a victim decides to seek help or not, they both encounter barriers. Some of the most common barriers and factors encountered when seeking help consist of victim-blaming, myth that the perpetrator is a stranger, questioning the victim’s credibility, and a low percentage of formal support sources in the rural areas. On the other hand, victims that never seek help encounter barriers such as loneliness, confusion, guilt, and fear. This research study aimed to identify the willingness of sexual assault victims to seek help from their communities after their assault and how barriers could be overcome. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 7 participants that had been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. The participants were selected through a convenience sampling method using qualitative methods to collect data as the participants were considered a vulnerable population. Five participants sought help, while the remaining two participants never sought help. The findings of the study determined that formal and informal support sources need more training on sexual assault as all participants mentioned inadequate support from at least one support source. The implications suggest outside assistance from urban professionals to better improve the quality of care in the rural areas due to limited services.