Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Educational and Counseling Psych

First Advisor

Dr. Pam Remer


Research demonstrates that sexual harassment, sexual assault, and eating disorders are pervasive gender-based social problems on college campuses. These phenomena can cause long- term psychological consequences, and negatively impact women’s ability to succeed in both academia and the workplace. Not only have the prevalence and effects of these issues been documented, a significant number of studies have found a relationship between various forms of victimization and eating disorders/symptoms. Research has shown that eating disorders may function as coping strategies for managing the psychological distress that often results from the trauma of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Although, this link has been identified, little research has examined why it might exist among various populations. The purpose of this study was to not only examine the relationships among sexual harassment, rape, and eating disorders, but also the cognitive and psychological processes that may influence this association. The cognitive processes included gender-role attitudes and rape myth acceptance and the psychological processes were depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress. In addition, the study aimed to explore these phenomena among the traditional female dominated fields of teaching and nursing. Little is known about how these populations are effected by sexual harassment, sexual assault, and eating disorders. Analyses were conducted on self-report measures from 206 students enrolled in an undergraduate nursing and pre-service teaching program at the University of Kentucky. The test of a theoretical model, using a series of multiple regressions, suggests a positive relationship among sexual harassment, rape and eating disturbances for nursing and pre- service teaching college women students. Also, the findings indicated that this relationship is partially mediated by psychological distress. No moderation was found between rape myth acceptance and gender-role attitudes and psychological distress. These results indicate that effective training and prevention programs that address sexual harassment and sexual assault are needed as well as clinical strategies for the assessment and treatment of eating disorders and trauma.



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