Much attention has been offered to the deleterious health impacts of sexual violence (SV) and for the most part, research has adopted a strengths-based perspective, focusing on resilience after SV. However, this research is hindered by inconsistencies regarding the conceptualization of resilience. The purpose of this study is to address these inconsistencies by parsing out current definitions and measurements of resilience to construct a definition that can be applied universally in SV research.
We conducted a scoping review of three databases following PRISMA guidelines that elucidates an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Hand searching of relevant journals and citation chaining were also conducted. We included fifteen empirical studies that were conducted in North America with women-identifying survivors of SV and that centered the concept of resilience. We extracted the following information: a) definitions of resilience, b) assessments of resilience, c) correlates of resilience, and d) interventions to promote resilience.
Our findings suggest there is no uniform definition of resilience. Regarding measures, the Connor-Davidson Resilience scale was the most commonly used. Despite differences in how resilience was conceptualized, resilience was consistently found amongst survivors.
We propose the following definition of resilience: “Resilience is a dynamic, nonlinear socio-emotional process that occurs continuously after SV victimization. It refers to the capacity to cope, adapt to, and construct one’s life after SV in ways that are culturally relevant and guided by the survivor’s own preferences and desired outcomes.” Overall, resilience is a living, breathing, moving concept that can shift in how it manifests over time and look different for each survivor.