Exploring Empowerment for Sexual Assault Victims in Women’s Only Group Fitness

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Amy N. Cole Washington State University

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Sarah Ullrich-French Washington State University

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Empowerment is a complex, multidimensional construct that has been criticized for its overuse and definitional dilution; however, the value and importance of empowering marginalized groups such as women and victims of sexual assault remains salient. The present study explores how participation in a women’s only fitness class can empower women who are victims of sexual violence. Using cross-sectional data from a larger evaluation project of Pink Gloves Boxing (PGB), several constructs (e.g., self-efficacy for exercise, empowerment in exercise, and perceptions of autonomy support) were measured to capture empowerment as operationalized in Cattaneo and Chapman’s (2010) and Cattaneo and Goodman’s (2015) Empowerment Process Model. Multiple Indicator, Multiple Cause structural equation modeling was used to examine differences in empowerment outcomes among women in a convenience sample (N = 149) of women in PGB and traditional fitness classes. Comparisons were made based on their sexual victimization experience and their participation in either PGB or traditional group fitness classes. Results revealed that women in PGB who had been victimized were more empowered than victims (γ = -0.38, p < .01) and nonvictims (γ = -0.24, p < .05) in traditional fitness classes. There were no significant differences among women in PGB, regardless of victimization. Implications for the empowering benefits of women’s only physical activity participation for victims of sexual assault are discussed.

Cole was with the Dept. of Human Development, Washington State University, Pullman, WA. Ullrich-French is with the Dept. of Educational Leadership, Sport Studies, and Educational/Counseling Psychology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA.

Address author correspondence to Amy N. Cole at acole@resourcedevelopment.net.
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