Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Gregory T. Smith


Exposure to sexual assault results in ongoing harms for women. After an assault, some women engage higher levels of externalizing behaviors, such as drinking problems and drug use, and others experience higher levels of internalizing dysfunction, such as clinical anxiety and clinical depression. In a longitudinal sample of 1929 freshman college women assessed across three time points, I found the following. Pre-assault negative urgency (the tendency to act rashly when distressed) interacted with assault exposure to predict increased subsequent drinking and initiation of drug use. Pre-assault trait anxiety/depression interacted with assault exposure to predict increased subsequent clinical anxiety and depression. There was also the surprising finding that the interaction between assault and trait anxiety/ depression was a protective factor against drinking and drug use. Finally, mean levels of trait negative urgency were significantly higher after an assault, though the same was not true for trait anxiety/depression. Women with different personalities tend to experience different forms of post-assault distress. These results support the development of targeted treatment protocols for trauma specific to personality types.