Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Christine Fiore

Commitee Members

Laura Kirsch, Jennifer Robohm, Gyda Swaney, Sara Hayden


Internalized Misogyny, Internalized Oppression, Internalized Sexism, Sexual Assault, Sexualized Violence, Women


University of Montana


Sexualized violence on college campuses has recently entered the media spotlight. One in five women are sexually assaulted during college and over 90% of these women know their attackers (Black et al., 2011; Cleere & Lynn, 2013). Students face the highest risk of sexualized violence within their first six weeks on campus (Graves, Sechrist, White, & Paradise, 2005). The acute and delayed psychological distress caused by sexualized violence is a significant public health concern and there have been relatively few studies that have taken a longitudinal approach (Edwards, Dardis, Sylaska, & Gidycz, 2014). Historically, psychology has focused on factors within an individual to explain behavior, without fully acknowledging external factors such as organizational culture and institutional norms (Keller, 2005). These external factors play an important role in stereotype maintenance and must be addressed to solve the problem of sexualized violence (David, 2013). This proposal uses the theoretical framework of Internalized Oppression (IO) to further our understanding of sexualized violence on campus. IO refers to the idea that individuals are negatively influenced by stereotypes about the groups they belong to (David, 2014). Through internalization of a set of stereotypical beliefs, attention is diverted from the oppressive system towards the oppressed group. Past research considering IO in ethnic minorities has found relationships between IO and vulnerability to interpersonal violence, academic retention, physical wellbeing and mental health (Itzen, 1985). Although IO has a wide range of manifestations, it had not yet been considered for understanding sexualized violence. Phase I of this study used PCA to create the Women’s Impressions on Gender and Self Scale (WIGSS) which includes five factors: (1) Stereotypical Gender Role Attitudes, (2) Devaluing/Dismissing Women, (3) Objectification, Social Comparison, and Low Self-Worth, (4) Gender Equality, and (5) Degrading of Women. Phase II of the study administered the WIGSS, OQ 45.2, IRMA, along with a survey of sexual experiences to college women. Findings suggest that IO in women activates more mental health distress, largely relates to more negative gender stereotypes (such as detrimental rape myths), influences support seeking after an event of sexualized violence, and operates differently than broader views on sexism. The study establishes IO as an important mechanism to consider in future treatments, prevention programs, advocacy campaigns, and educational trainings. It is critical for both researchers and the public to gain a better understanding of IO in women and sexualized violence. Sexualized violence has long oppressed women, and the acknowledgment of IO can allow oppression to be fought openly, clearly, and vocally, rather than internally. Through a better understanding of the implicit attitudes women hold about themselves, collaborative efforts can be made to address and counteract beliefs that facilitate sexual violence.



© Copyright 2018 Marina Leigh Costanzo