Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychological Science



First Reader/Committee Chair

Christina Hassija


Exposure to sexual violence is associated with deleterious mental health consequences (Campbell et al., 2009). Survivors’ perceptions of self-blame can exacerbate these difficulties (Miller at al., 2007). Characterological self-blame has been associated with negative outcomes (e.g., PTSD, depression, & anxiety; Hassija & Gray, 2013; Janoff-Bulman, 1979). On the other hand, behavioral self-blame may be more adaptive, especially when the victim believes they have control over their future behavior (Hassija & Gray, 2013). However, the underlying mechanisms that account for both variants of self-blame’s impacts warrant further investigation. We predicted that posttraumatic shame, conceptualized as negative attributions and criticisms towards the entire self after trauma (Beck et al., 2011; Øktedalen et al., 2014) would explain characterological self-blame’s maladaptive outcomes. In addition, trauma coping self-efficacy, or the perception that trauma-recovery is manageable and controllable, can protect against psychological stress and is positively related to psychological well-being (Benight et al., 2015; DeCou et al., 2019). As behavioral self-blame is related to one’s feelings of control, we predicted that coping self-efficacy may explain its adaptive value. A sample of women who reported prior exposure to sexual assault (N = 132, Mage = 38.31, SD = 12.30) completed measures of self-blame, trauma-related shame, and depression and anxiety symptoms. Trauma-related shame significantly mediated the relationship between characterological self-blame and depression (B = .09, SE = .04, 95% CI [.02, .17]), and anxiety (B = .08, SE = .04, 95% CI [.02, .17]), but coping self-efficacy did not moderate similar relationships between behavioral self-blame and depression and anxiety. Trauma-related shame may be useful treatment target for individuals who blame the internal and stable aspects of themselves.