Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Jessica E Toft


Social Work


The interpersonal nature of sexual assault has been theorized to negatively impact recovery. Access to supportive others is critical to positive outcomes and in particular, to posttraumatic growth. Spirituality may provide access to supportive social and spiritual relationships; however, spirituality can also be a source of increased distress when accessed in less adaptive ways. This research sought to understand how spirituality impacts posttraumatic growth after a sexual assault. The research design was an exploratory, non-probability sample. Respondents were primarily Caucasian and of young adult age. Respondents were more likely to access personal spirituality than communal spirituality. Participants were reached through word-of-mouth and online forums. An online survey was completed by respondents which provided information about demographics, spirituality prior to and after the sexual assault, and the resulting psychological change. Quantitative results were analyzed for descriptive statistics, and qualitative results were analyzed using a grounded theory method. Overall, posttraumatic growth was lower than would be expected among those who have experienced trauma. A positive style of spiritual coping was associated with positive relationships and the strongest posttraumatic growth outcomes, whereas a negative style of spiritual coping was associated with difficulty in relationships and the weakest posttraumatic growth outcomes. Clinical social workers need to consider the influence of spirituality when it is used by clients as a coping strategy after sexual assault and, where necessary, provide additional relational support and motivation to remain engaged in the recovery process.

Included in

Social Work Commons