Senior human sciences major from Flower Mound, Texas.
Senior Kathryn Shahan finds great interest in studying the field of trauma. She studies it in school and plans on furthering her education by getting her master’s degree at Boston University in order to eventually become a social worker specializing in trauma.
Currently writing her thesis for her human and social sciences major, Shahan has researched trauma over the past year, focusing on the perceptions and experiences of male survivors of rape and of sexual assault.
“I believe that there’s so much more work to be done to increase the general public’s knowledge of the experiences of sexual assault, which can then help to both prevent more assaults and to improve the experience of survivors in the aftermath,” Shahan said. “I’ve loved contributing to this and hope to continue it throughout my career.”
Shahan chose this topic after realizing that it was a frequent and severe issue that rarely received attention and dialogue. She was inspired by her male friends who had personally dealt with rape and sexual assault, which showed her that it happened despite the lack of coverage, and that the negative effects from it were real and traumatic.
“I was realizing that it relatively commonly happened to men, but I saw a lack of conversation about it in the news, [the #metoo movement], etcetera,” Shahan said. “I also found that not enough research and resources exist on the topic, which is why I’m attempting to contribute.”
Her research entails several different aspects. First, it includes a survey of college students to uncover their perceptions of male rape survivors. This section covered questions such as, “have male rape survivors lost their manhood?”
Second, her research includes another interview with college students regarding their perceptions of male rape survivors, but this time focusing on the questions of what constitutes rape and what informs these students’ opinions of rape. She then presented them with case scenarios of male rape and observed their analyses of them.
Third, she includes surveys and interviews of male rape or assault survivors to inquire about their experiences, who they told and why, and which resources they sought out.
And finally, Shahan’s research contains a content analysis of 30 resource providers to find out if sufficient resources exist for male assault survivors.
All of her data gathered from these surveys and interviews went through the institutional review board (IRB) and was approved.
Her entire body of research was based off of existing research, much of which circulated around false negative perceptions of male rape, also called “Male Rape Myths.”
Shahan discovered that the statistic shows about 1 in 6 men will experience some form of sexual violence, revealing it as a “huge problem, but not recognized as such, or as rape.”
Because of this, much of her research also focused on the media and how male rape incidents are often portrayed as desirable instead of what they are — rape.
Within her major, of which she is one of the first students, she has the opportunity to customize her schedule with four elective slots. She chose psychology courses in order to “give [her] a fuller understanding of human behavior.”