Date of Conferral







Tracy Marsh


Research has shown that individuals' willingness to believe a disclosure of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is related to just-world beliefs, ambivalent sexism, and defensive attribution. However, researchers do not know whether these variables relate to posts made in response to online articles describing CSA. Negative or disbelieving posts may impact not only the author, but also readers who view these comments via hindrance of disclosures, increased self-blame, and avoidance of help seeking. In this quantitative study, just-world, ambivalent sexism, and defensive attribution theories provided the theoretical basis used to determine whether just-world beliefs, ambivalent sexism, and defensive attribution influenced comments made in response to an online article about CSA disclosure. Eight-hundred twenty participants read the article where the author discloses she was sexually abused as a child. Response comments were coded negative, neutral, or positive. Participants also completed demographic questions, the Global Belief in a Just World Scale, the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, and questions regarding their similarity to the offender and victim. Multinomial logistic regression analysis showed relationships between negative posts and hostile sexism, perceived similarity to the perpetrator, frequent involvement in online discourse, and, to a lesser extent, belief in a just world. Parenthood and perceived similarity to the author increased one's odds of posting positively. Responses of CSA survivors resulted in unexpected findings. Study findings may be used to challenge stereotypes and vitriol often used to silence survivors in public discourse, for thought challenging in psychotherapeutic settings, and for future public education and research to increase support for CSA survivors.