Sexual Trauma Stigma and Physical Health Outcomes: The Mediating Role of Emotion Regulation Difficulties

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Stigma is one factor posited to play a role in the negative physical and mental health sequelae of sexual victimization (e.g., Finkelhor & Browne, 1985). Stigma has been shown to be associated with negative health outcomes across various marginalized populations, including LGBT individuals (e.g., Hatzenbuehler et al., 2014), and difficulties with emotion regulation (DERS) have been shown to be one mechanism through which stigma leads to psychological outcomes (Hatzenbuehler et al., 2009). This study sought to examine if DERS (Gratz & Roemer, 2004) mediated the relation between sexual victimization stigma (Gibson & Leitenberg, 2001) and physical health outcomes of general self-rated health and somatic symptoms (SSS-8; Gierk et al., 2014) in a sample of college students (N=194, 79% female, 81% white) in rural Appalachia with an experience of sexual victimization. Emotion regulation difficulties significantly mediated the relation between stigma and both health outcomes [self-rated health: R2 = .07, F(2,179) = 7.20, p < .01, indirect effect t(179) = -2.64, p < .01, CI = -.011, - .001; somatic symptoms: R2 = .23, F(2,180) = 27.50, p < .000, indirect effect t(180) = 5.41, p < .000, CI = .05, .02]. Results highlight the importance of considering the role of stigma for survivors of sexual violence, as well as suggest a treatment target in increasing emotion regulation skills.


Washington, DC

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