OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

The Intervening Relationship of Burdensomeness and Belonging on Sexual Assault Disclosure and Mental Health


Lindsey Chesus


Sexual victimization is experienced by about 20% of women and two percent of men (Black, Basile, Breiding, Smith, Walters, Merrick, Chen, & Stevens, 2011). Disclosure of these incidences is high, with about 90% of survivors speaking out at least once about their assault (Ullman & Peter-Hagene, 2014). Though disclosure rates appear high, common reactions given by both formal (e.g. law enforcement) and informal (e.g. a close friend) sources are negative, and counterintuitive to survivor growth (Ullman & Brecklin, 2002). Often studied with military veterans and suicide, perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belonging are tied to social disconnect and perceived rejection from interpersonal support systems, and can have negative impacts on social functioning in many realms of life, and often follow stressful life events such as trauma (Hill & Pettit, 2014; Ford & Collins, 2010; Van Orden, Cukrowicz, Witte, & Joiner, 2012). Negative reactions to disclosures, and the rejection experienced as a consequence, can lead to diminished mental health, including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Ullman & Peter-Hagene, 2014; Starzynski, Ullman, Filipas, & Townsend, 2005). The current study proposes a relationship between reactions to disclosures of sexual assault, perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belonging, PTSD, and depression. Furthermore, we aim to explore the roles of perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belonging on the severity of PTSD. One mediation model with two mediators is proposed. We hypothesize that perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belonging will mediate the relationship between reactions to disclosure, depression, and PTSD symptoms. Individually, negative reactions to disclosure of sexual assault, aside from belief, were related to PTSD symptoms. As individuals feel they are responded too with more blame, egotistic behavior, distraction, control, and treated differently, they experience higher PTSD symptoms. Blame was the only negative reaction to be significantly mediated with PTSD via perceived burdensomeness. Further, blame was also the only negative reaction associated with perceived burdensomeness overall. When individuals receive more severe reactions of blame, they may perceive themselves as being a burden to their support network. Being believed upon disclosure was negatively associated with thwarted belonging, indicating the more the survivor perceives they were believed, the more they felt they belonged. Currently, there is no empirical data on burdensomeness and thwarted belonging within sexual assault literature. Implications of this study may provide important insight into relationships previously not examined in regards to sexual assault and mental health outcomes.

This document is currently not available here.