Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Psychology


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Associate Professor Alfred Allan


Research efforts in the field of sexual victimisation have traditionally focussed on identifying ways to increase reporting rates. While reporting rates still remain low with estimates in the 10-15% vicinity (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996; Australian Institute of Criminology. 2000), there is thought to have been an increase and stabilisation of reporting rates in recent years (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1998, 2002; Roberts & Gebotys, 1992). Brought on by this increase and stabilisation of reporting rates, is a need to expand the research focus to include the effective management of victims of sexual offences. Management can take place on two main levels: on a c1inical1evel (for those who access support services) and on a justice system level (for those who report to the police). The purpose of this research was to examine the circumstances of 132 women and men who had been victims of sexual offences at some time in their lives, from both clinical and justice system perspectives. This was achieved by combining quantitative and qualitative methodologies to examine the complex nature of participants' psychological functioning, and the interaction between indicators of their psychological functioning and various dynamic and static predictor variables. Multiple regression analyses indicated that between 48% and 73% of the variance in the four indicators of psychological functioning (depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and self-esteem) was accounted for with the predictors. Dynamic variables including frequent rumination of why the offence occurred, shame-proneness, perceived control, and coping strategies were consistently more strongly related to outcome measures than the static variables. These findings provide a basis for optimism regarding clinical and justice system interventions with people who have experienced sexual offences, since dynamic factors are inherently modifiable. Practical implications that allow justice and clinical management efforts to focus on the high-impact areas identified in this research are discussed. Current psychological functioning did not differ between victims who had reported their offences to the police and those who had not, though several key themes were identified by victims in terms of therapeutic and anti-therapeutic elements of the Justice System process. From a therapeutic jurisprudence perspective, these experiences are valuable in being able to guide those who work with victims of sexual offences within the Justice System. Further, reasons why some participants reported their victimisation to the police and others did not, along with participants’ personal definitions of justice, may provide useful indications as to how the justice system may better meet the needs of victims of sexual offences.

Included in

Psychology Commons