, Volume 38, Issue 3-4, pp 263-274,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 09 Nov 2006

Being Silenced: The Impact of Negative Social Reactions on the Disclosure of Rape


Rape survivors who speak out about their assault experiences are often punished for doing so when they are subjected to negative reactions from support providers. These negative reactions may thereby serve a silencing function, leading some rape survivors to stop talking about their experiences to anyone at all. The current study sought to examine this worst case scenario. Focusing on the qualitative narratives of eight rape survivors who initially disclosed the assault but then stopped disclosing for a significant period of time, this study sought to provide an in-depth description of how negative reactions silenced these survivors. Three routes to silence were identified: 1) negative reactions from professionals led survivors to question whether future disclosures would be effective; 2) negative reactions from friends and family reinforced feelings of self-blame; and 3) negative reactions from either source reinforced uncertainty about whether their experiences qualified as rape. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.