Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault
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This virtual special issue brings together a selection of articles published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in response to the recent dramatic increase in attention being drawn around the world to the public health epidemics of sexual harassment and sexual assault. For this issue, we have brought together both new and classic papers to inform research and intervention and assist trauma specialists in their efforts to identify the factors that predict posttraumatic stress and those that promote recovery in the aftermath of sexual harassment and assault. The studies presented here involve participants from a wide variety of contexts, including nationally representative samples, military personnel, college students, and sexual minority individuals. The studies presented illustrate the often long-lasting mental health consequences of sexual trauma, documenting effects extending as long as a decade and a half after the experience. Further, these studies highlight the importance of social and community factors in either promoting recovery or exacerbating harm following this trauma. Specific risk factors are identified, including changes in worldview, revictimization, maladaptive coping strategies, and negative reactions by others, particularly when those are associated with perceived betrayal of trust by systems and institutions that should be safe havens and providers of care. Importantly, the studies provide hope to both practitioners and survivors that recovery is possible following sexual victimization, and that evidence-based PTSD treatments can be a key component of that recovery. This research also emphasizes the importance of investigating gender differences in the processes and outcomes ensuing from sexual victimization, particularly regarding the gendered social contexts in which disclosures are received. Finally, appended to the list of articles are links to resources we hope will be helpful to clinicians, educators, and members of the general public.