Project: Research project

Grant Details


Sexual assault is a terrifying experience that may create
"flashbulb memories." These are especially indelible memories, which form
when events exceed critical levels of surprise and consequentiality, and
consist of a permanent record of the contents of awareness for the period
immediately surrounding the shock. Study of sexual assault memories
would further understanding of intrusive re-experiencing, which is the
hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder from which victims of violence
suffer. Specific aims of the research plan are: (a) To determine whether
rape memories are resistant to forgetting; (b) To compare rape memories
with other flashbulb memories on characteristics including trace
attributes, retrograde amnesia, enhanced detail, and the effects of
rehearsal on memory intensity over time; (c) To examine recall data for
evidence that rape memories are modified and interact with causal
attributions regarding the rape event; (d) To predict post-rape
adjustment by traumatic memory characteristics and social cognitions.
Study One addresses aims a-b. This study involves 180 college women
including a group of rape victims and two comparison samples (nonsexual
assault victims and first-time sexual experiences, 30 per group), all of
whom are within 12 weeks of the target experience occurrence.
Participants will be questioned initially and again at one year about
their memory for the target event and for a prototypical flashbulb
memory-creating event (the October, 1989 earthquake). To control for
measurement effects, three similar groups will be assessed a single time
at one year subsequent to the target event. Dependent measures include
rater-rated retention accuracy between pre- and post testing as well as
self-rated memory characteristics obtained from a standardized memory
questionnaire. Stud Two addresses aims c-d using both crosssectional and
longitudinal data. Participants will be adult working women who have
experienced completed rape. All rape victims identified by a mailed
survey, regardless of time since rape, will be interviewed creating a
cross-sectional sample of approximately 250 women. From these, 50 women
who have experienced rape within three months will be followed
longitudinally with testing at
Effective start/end date4/1/913/31/98


  • National Institutes of Health


  • Medicine(all)


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