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Research Topic:
Effects of Sexual Violence-related PTSD Symptoms on Asexual U.S College Students.1
Effects of Sexual Violence-related PTSD Symptoms on Asexual U.S College Students
PSYC 275w
Rough Draft
April 8, 2023
Effects of Sexual Violence-related PTSD symptoms on Asexual U.S College Students
Asexuality means a person might be attracted to another sensually and romantically and
willing to establish a relationship with the person without the need for sexual intercourse. It is
sexual orientation or identity that subjects asexual people to the social stigmas, sexual traumas,
and discriminatory practices that LGBTQ+ members face in society. However, the increasing
prevalence of sexual violence on U.S. college campuses and the need for students to remain and
interact with their peers for at least two years exposes victims to recurrent memories of the
trauma that increase their risk for developing mental health disorders. Due to the strong
connections between sexual assault and most psychosocial problems in victims, this paper
hypothesizes that the association between asexuality and the risk of sexually violent acts and
victimization in colleges increases the severity of PTSD symptoms among victims and
determines the type of evidence-based interventions to deal with the mental health disorders.
Research Questions
1. What is the association between asexuality and the risk of sexually violent acts and
victimization in colleges?
2. What is the severity of PTSD symptoms among victimized asexual students with
exposure to violent sexual acts?
3. What are the evidence-based interventions to help asexual students overcome their sexual
traumas and PTSD?
Asexuality and Risks of Sexual Violence
The risks of a person getting sexually coerced, raped, or exposed to other unwanted
sexual experiences are greater on college campuses than in any other environment in the United
States. A review article by Hannan, Zinnick, and Park (2021) stated that 23% of female college
students in 27 American colleges were subjected to physical threats or force that resulted in a
violent sexual act and victimization in 2015. Similarly, Kammer-Kerwick et al. (2021) claimed
that the increased campaign against sexual violence and misconduct in tertiary institutions in the
United States is due to the increasing prevalence of this problem in this environment. While
these studies cited weak enforcement of anti-sexual violent policies and the failure of most
victims to report sexual assault and unwanted sexual experiences to authorities and law
enforcement due to victimization as the causes of the problem, the evidence implies that the risks
are high for students. Also, the review of the victims showed that sexual orientation increases the
risks of experiencing violent and traumatic sexual acts on college campuses. Hence, sexual
violence and victimization is a pervasive problem on U.S. college campuses that predisposes
students to related mental health consequences.
Asexual students have a sexual orientation that is highly misunderstood by most people
and increases their risks of experiencing violent sexual acts and unwanted sexual experiences.
According to Kammer-Kerwick et al. (2021), gender and sexual minority students, including
gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, and asexual students have a three-fold chance of experiencing
sexual violence than heterosexual students and more than 74% chance of continued exposure to
sexual victimization and misconduct throughout their duration in college. Also, a study by
Mollet and Black (2021) found that asexuality increases a student’s experience of
microaggression that constitutes sexual assault and results in long-term trauma and other mental
health problems. In this regard, the potential for some asexual persons to demonstrate sexual
arousal and engage in intercourse predispose others who display attraction and romantic feelings
without engaging in sexual intercourse to the risk of different forms of implicit and explicit
violent behaviors. Therefore, asexual college students in the United States are highly prone to
sexual violence and victimization from people with different sexual orientations and identities
other than theirs in this environment where a culture of the expression of sexuality dominates.
The Severity of PTSD Symptoms among Sexually-Victimized Asexual Students
The implication of the high risk of exposure to persistent sexual violence and trauma is
the development of mental health disorders or exacerbation of pre-existing ones. Liss and Wilson
(2021) claimed that despite asexual students’ reports of greater belonging than bisexual and
gay/lesbian students, they experience are at greater risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental
health issues. Due to the traumatic nature of the use of physical force or the threat of physical
forces to perpetrate sexual violence or unwanted experiences, asexual victims display more
severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than any other mental health disorder.
According to Solomon et al. (2019), PTSD symptoms in asexual individuals are worsened than
in others who experience the same level of sexual trauma due to their internalization of the
negative sexual encounter and exposure to other forms of traumas from social stigma. As a
result, it is necessary to examine the PTSD symptoms that are common in asexual students.
Post-trauma stress disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by the recurring
experience of previous trauma that results in behavioral problems. Hannan et al. (2021) stated
that “avoidance of trauma-related stimuli, intrusive thoughts, and hypervigilance are the common
and most severe PTSD symptoms” observed in victims of sexual violence that inform their
diagnosis and treatment (p.598). Unsurprisingly, these PTSD symptoms are the most common
and severe since these students remain in a shared environment that increases their encountered
with perpetrators of violent sexual acts or misconduct (Coates et al., 2023). Similarly, Parent et
al.’s (2018) perspectives that asexual students have a greater potential to perceive sexual assault
before their occurrence further illustrate their likelihood to experience extreme forms of PTSD
symptoms after a sexually-violent incident. As a result, the severity of the sexual violencerelated PTSD symptoms in asexual college students would be more and could result in long-term
effects on their health and educational outcomes.
Effects of PTSD Due to Sexual Violence on Asexual College Students
The assessment of the adverse effects of sexual trauma-related effects of PTSD
symptoms on asexual college students in the United States is necessary for determining
appropriate interventions for them and implementing preventive measures. Also, the low
reporting rate of sexual assault and unwanted sexual practices among college students means that
the effects of these PTSD symptoms on their academic performance, health outcomes, and
overall quality of life would be several. As Eisenberg et al. (2017) claimed, the high perception
of institutional betrayal by college students is the leading reason why a significant percentage of
sexually-abused and traumatized students choose not to report the incident, especially those who
where incapacitated when the non-consensual sexual act occurred. In this regard, the increased
rate of hypervigilance, avoidance of related stimuli, and intrusive thoughts among asexual
students create academic challenges and physical and psychosocial stressors that result in poor
grades and health, Hannan et al. (2021) support this perspective when they found that higher
tendency for PTSD symptoms among victims of sexual violence result in greater adverse health
outcomes and poor academic performance that predispose victims to other serious social and
interpersonal issues. Therefore, there is substantial evidence that sexual violence-related PTSD
symptoms due to sexual violence have major adverse academic and health effects on asexual
college students.
Interventions for Sexual Violence-related PTSD Symptoms in Asexual College Students
Psychotherapy and the provision of social and emotional support by peers are the leading
interventions for asexual college students with a diagnosis of sexual violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder. The review of the literature on the interventions for sexual assault
victims and survivors among asexual individuals showed that psychodynamic psychotherapy and
cognitive behavioral therapy are the most common. Specifically, Cowan, Ashai, and Gentile
(2020) the efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy is based on its role in promoting emotional
expression, exploration of intrusive thoughts, and exploration of the avoidance of certain aspects
of the experience. In contrast, trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy helps asexual victims
of sexual violence and misconduct to use their narration of the trauma to challenge negative
intrusive thoughts, become resilient to the triggers, and strengthen their capacity to regulate their
emotions and deal with their fears (Cowan et al., 2020). While the interventions and others are
targeted at PTSD symptoms, Parent et al. (2018) suggest mental health practitioners who work
with asexual patients should improve their knowledge of the condition to foster a trusting
therapeutic relationship and environment that enhances the efficacy of these interventions. The
other interventions that would help asexual student victims of sexual violence to deal with their
PTSD symptoms and other mental health conditions are peer support and greater enforcement of
their institution’s sexual assault policies.
In summary, asexual students are disproportionately affected by the high rate of sexual
violence and unwanted sexual experiences on college campuses across the country which
increased their susceptibility to severe PTSD symptoms. The persistent exposure to these
negative mental health consequences of this sexual trauma affects their academic performance,
physical health, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life adversely. As a result, the
evidence-based interventions for asexual victims of sexual violence to deal with their PTSD
target the effects and are effective when combined with other non-psychotherapeutic measures.
Coates Quezada, C. A., Armstrong, L., Kilmer, R., Quinlan, M., & Reeve, C. (2023). Trauma of
the shared environment: A qualitative analysis of the experiences of survivors of college
campus sexual assault. Violence Against Women, 107780122311635.
Cowan, A., Ashai, A., & Gentile, J. P. (2020). Psychotherapy with survivors of sexual abuse and
assault. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 17(1-3), 22-26.
Eisenberg, M. E., Lust, K., Mathiason, M. A., & Porta, C. M. (2017). Sexual assault, sexual
orientation, and reporting among college students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(12), 62–82. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260517726414
Hannan, S. M., Zimnick, J., & Park, C. (2020). Consequences of sexual violence among college
students: Investigating the role of PTSD symptoms, rumination, and institutional betrayal.
Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 30(5), 586–604.
Kammer-Kerwick, M., Wang, A., McClain, T. S., Hoefer, S., Swartout, K. M., Backes, B., &
Busch-Armendariz, N. (2021). Sexual violence among gender and sexual minority
college students: The risk and extent of victimization and related health and educational
outcomes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(21-22), 10499-10526. DOI:
Liss, M., & Wilson, L. C. (2021). Mental health and general psychological processes among
asexual, bisexual, and Gay/Lesbian College students in the United States. Psychology &
Sexuality, 13(4), 1041–1053. https://doi.org/10.1080/19419899.2021.1979634
Mollet, A. L., & Black, W. (2021). A-nother perspective: An analysis of asexual college
students’ experiences with sexual violence. Journal of College Student Development,
62(5), 526–546. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2021.0058
Parent, M. C., & Ferriter, K. P. (2018). The Co-Occurrence of Asexuality and Self-Reported
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosis and Sexual Trauma Within the Past 12 Months
Among U.S. College Students. Archives of sexual behavior, 47(4), 1277–1282.
Solomon, D. T., Combs, E. M., Allen, K., Roles, S., DiCarlo, S., Reed, O., & Klaver, S. J.
(2019). The impact of minority stress and gender identity on PTSD Outcomes in sexual
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Valentine, S. E., Livingston, N. A., Salomaa, A. C., & Shipherd, J. C. (2022, March 11). Trauma,
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