" It was something about me"
Sexual violence remains one of the most pervasive and underreported crimes in modern society. Sexual violence largely impacts women and people with other marginalized identities and has historical origins as a tool for domination and control. Although, sexual assault and rape are common occurrences, survivors of sexual assault and rape do not report their crime, and many choose not to seek help. One reason offered in sexual violence literature as an explanation for low rates of reporting and resource-seeking is attributed to the “hidden rape” victim phenomenon. More than half of survivors do not acknowledge or label their experience as a sexual assault or rape, even though their experience meets the legal definition of rape. While many reasons may influence survivors to call their experience a rape or sexual assault, such as their relationship to the person who sexually assaulted them, substance use, or prior sexual encounters with the person who sexually assaulted them, there remains much to be explored about how survivors come to understand and label their assault. Especially, as research demonstrates that unacknowledged rape is directly correlated with non-reporting and resource-seeking decisions. This study examined the influences of internalized oppression and conscientization on how survivors label and understand their experience with sexual violence, and how those influences may affect post-assault resource-seeking decisions. This study is a secondary qualitative analysis of 22 semi-structured interviews collected between the years of 2018-2019 in a Northeast region of the U.S that focused on the experience of adolescent sexual assault. I examined the process of labeling a sexual assault among survivors and how their interactions with others in the social world informs that labeling process. Boejie’s constant comparative analytical method (CCM) for analyzing qualitative interviews, was used for code and category generation with the intent of theme identification. Findings from this study outlined types of oppressive and anti-oppressive messages that informs manifestations of internalized oppression and the conscientization process that attenuates it among sexual assault survivors. Additionally, as internalized oppression and conscientization are psychological states that necessitate cultivation this study highlights the reinforcing and disruptive experiences that allowed for its continued indoctrination. Finally, this study uplifts the multiplicative experiences among sexual assault survivors with marginalized identities. Insights from this study provide new understandings of how internalized oppression and conscientization manifest among sexual assault survivors. Furthermore, the study highlights the impact these intrapsychic phenomena have on post-assault processing and decision-making.