Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Ham, Lindsay


Introduction: Sexual assault (SA) incidents are common. One in five women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime (NSVRC, 2015); some will experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of SA experiences (Resnick et al., 1993). Further, approximately two-thirds of all cases of sexual assault involve consumption of alcohol by the victim, perpetrator, or both (Testa & Livingston, 2009). Previous research has been dedicated to delineating cognitive and situational factors surrounding SA occurrences that contribute to risk for developing PTSD (Jaffe et al., 2013; Peter-Hagene & Ullman, 2018). Peter-Hagene and Ullman (2018) found that SA survivors that engage in more self-blame exhibit more PTSD symptoms (PTSS). Though bystanders are often present before an SA (Haikalis et al., 2018), little is known about bystanders’ presence (vs. absence) impact on a survivor's mental health outcomes (Hamby et al., 2016). Further, no research to date has investigated both the role of self-blame in the relationship between victim alcohol intoxication/bystander presence (vs. absence) and PTSS. We hypothesized that SA survivor self-blame would mediate the association between alcohol intoxication/bystander presence (vs. absence) and severity of PTSS. Methods: Participants were 237 female college students ages of 18 to 25 (Mage=19.02, SDage=1.24; 81.4% Caucasian) with a lifetime history of SA (i.e., attempted or completed SA and rape on the revised SES) who completed an online survey. Participants reported on their subjective intoxication during the SA, bystander involvement and victim outcomes (Hamby et al., 2016), self-blame (RAQ; Frazier, 2003), and PTSS (PCL-5; Weathers, 2013). Results: PTSS and self-blame were positively correlated, r(234)=.473, p=.001. Participants who reported a bystander was present during the SA did not significantly differ from those who reported no bystanders were present in mean PTSS, F(1,229)=.247, p=.619, or self-blame, F(1,228)=2.588, p=.109. Similarly, mean PTSS, F(1,234)= .560, p=.692, and self-blame, F(1,233)= .492, p= .741, did not significantly differ between participants who endorsed being intoxicated (vs. not intoxication) during the SA. Mediation analysis suggested that while self-blame was positively associated with PTSS, β=-.465, pp=.116, and PTSS, β=-.039, p=.793, and self-blame did not statistically mediate the association between bystander presence and PTSS, β=-.121, 95% CI=-0.270 to 0.028. Additionally, alcohol intoxication was found to be unrelated to self-blame β=-.279, p =.442, and self-blame did not mediate the relationship between victim alcohol intoxication and PTSS, partially standardized indirect effect =-.0152, 95% bootstrapped confidence interval (CI)=-.054 to .026. Conclusions: These results suggest that the presence of bystanders during an SA and victim alcohol intoxication was unrelated to self-blame, and consequently PTSS severity. However, the positive association between self-blame and PTSS is consistent with prior findings (Peter-Hagene & Ullman, 2018) and suggests that self-blame attributions following SA could be an intervention target.


Sexual Violence, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, Self-Blame