Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Committee Chairperson

Susan Gans Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lauri Hyers, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Gawrysiak, Ph.D.


Research exploring the relationships among trauma survivors is largely non-existent. This study aimed to explore the effects of relationships among individuals with a shared experience of sexual trauma within the group therapeutic context of sexual assault support groups. This study sought to examine the potential buffering and supportive effects of social support between sexual assault survivors, while also exploring the potential negative effects of shared trauma that may occur from the potentially triggering nature of seeking support from other sexual assault survivors. These complex dynamics were explored through examining the relationships and experiences of sexual assault survivors who have attended sexual assault support groups. Participants were selected from college student participants enrolled in introductory psychology courses. A qualitative approach utilizing an open-ended survey was conducted and results were analyzed following the reflective and flexible process of Thematic Analysis as outline by Braun and Clarke (2006). The results of this study found that due to the presence of shared trauma amongst survivors in sexual assault support groups, participants can experience negative reactions when exposed to other survivors’ experiences in the group in addition to the supportive, therapeutic effects of attending the group. The implications of the results of this study on the clinical practice of group psychotherapy is discussed and avenues for future research are offered.