Campus Study Examines Sexual Assault Survivors

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Published October 18, 2015
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The Montclarion
Photo Courtesy of Sam Nasim (Flickr).

The Family and Child Studies Department is conducting a research project aimed to study the relationships between sexual assault survivors and their siblings.

To participate in the study, students must be survivors of sexual assault or the sibling of one as well as be 18 or older. Participants will be asked questions about how they discussed their assault with their siblings: what reactions they expected from their siblings, how it felt to share their story, what advice they would offer to other survivors and more.

“I am interested in understanding how people share their stories of surviving sexual abuse, as I find that, in sharing, they have an opportunity to gain their voice again,” said Veronica Barrios, a Doctoral research assistant working on the study. “I am also interested in how siblings react and how the sibling relationship is impacted by this disclosure.”

Participants can stop answering or skip questions if they are uncomfortable sharing certain information. Barrios is committed to making all parties involved feel as comfortable as possible and providing support for their disclosure.

“This study is meant to learn about how to make disclosure of sexual assault easier for survivors and how to help siblings support one another,” said Barrios. “The foundation of this support is feeling comfortable.”

According to Barrios, there is a limited amount of information available on sibling-survivor relationships. One in five college students has survived sexual assault and four in five have a sibling. Yet there is little research about how the relationship between siblings is affected. This study was created to shed more light on the topic and help start the conversation.

“My goals [for the research project] are to provide an opportunity for survivors to share their story, to help understand the impact of sexual abuse on siblings and their relationship and to better understand how we as a society can support survivors during disclosures,” said Barrios. “It is believed that only 20 percent of sexual abuse experiences are reported. I would like survivors to feel that they should and can share their experiences of abuse rather than feeling they should quiet it.“

Those interested in participating in the program can contact Veronica Barrios by email at barriosv2@montclair.edu. There will not be compensation for taking part in the study.

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