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Laura Wilson

Associate Professor and Director of Safe Zone | Psychological Science

Fredericksburg, VA, UNITED STATES

Dr. Wilson focuses on post-trauma functioning, particularly in survivors of sexual violence or mass trauma

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Biography

Laura C. Wilson is a clinical psychologist whose expertise focuses on post-trauma functioning, particularly in survivors of sexual violence or mass trauma (e.g., terrorism, mass shootings, combat). Her research interests extend to predictors of violence and aggression, including psychophysiological and personality factors, as well as indicators of PTSD following mass trauma, long-term functioning among first responders, outcomes among survivors of sexual violence, and the influence of media on mental illness stigma.
Dr. Wilson also is director of Safe Zone, an education and advocacy program at the University of Mary Washington that is geared toward fostering inclusion of the LGBTQ+ population.
She has published more than 30 articles, in such peer-reviewed academic journals as Trauma, Violence, & Abuse; Journal of Traumatic Stress; Psychiatry Research; Journal of Clinical Psychology; Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy; Aggressive Behavior; and Behaviour Research and Therapy.
She is editor of "The Wiley Handbook of the Psychology of Mass Shootings," the gold standard reference on the topic of mass shootings from a psychological perspective. She has presented her work at numerous national and international conferences and regularly includes students in her research, publications and presentations.
Dr. Wilson was named an Association for Psychological Science Rising Star that recognizes early-career researchers worldwide who are engaging in innovative work that is advancing the field. The University also honored her with the 2017 UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, presented annually to an exceptional member of the junior faculty.

Areas of Expertise

TerrorismTraumaSexual ViolencePost Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD

Accomplishments

Association for Psychological Science Rising Star | professional

The honor recognizes early-career researchers worldwide who are engaging in innovative work that is advancing the field.

University of Mary Washington Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award | professional

The award is presented annually to an exceptional member of the faculty who has served the institution for at least two years but no more five.

Education

Virginia Tech

Ph.D., Clinical Psychology

College of William and Mary

M.A., General/Experimental Psychology

Virginia Tech

B.S., Psychology

Virginia Tech

B.S., Sociology: Crime and Deviance

Media Appearances

Survivors Grapple With Putting Trauma Aside To Vote For Joe Biden

The Huffington Post  online

2020-04-24

“When the main talking points focus on the credibility of the accuser(s) rather than the actions of the accused individual, survivors feel invalidated,” Dr. Laura Wilson, associate professor of psychological science at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, told Huff Post. The dialogue around a story like this, Wilson said, can be very triggering for survivors and bring up old trauma. “That can have far-reaching consequences for their mental health and recovery,” she added. “It can increase emotional distress by making survivors feel angry, sad or isolated. It can silence them and make them less likely to talk about what happened to them.”

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Rape is Still Rape, Even When Consensual Sex Happens Later

The Huffington Post  online

2020-02-10

“I certainly understand that it seems bizarre,” Dr. Laura Wilson, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Mary Washington told HuffPost by phone on Thursday. “But in actuality, when you think about how people respond to victimization it makes a lot of sense.” Wilson, whose research focuses on post-trauma functioning in sexual assault survivors, explained that most survivors don’t initially use the terms “assault” or “rape” to describe what they’ve experienced. Instead, they might conceptualize the assault as “bad sex” or “a miscommunication.”

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The teens of TikTok are taking on school shootings

Fox 40, WICZ; News 3, WTKR  online

2019-10-02

"People have really different reactions to humor as a coping strategy, but humor can be a really healthy form of coping," says Laura Wilson, an associate professor of Psychology at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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False Reports Of Gunmen In N.Y.C. And Virginia Cause Jitters Following Mass Shootings

NPR  online

2019-08-08

"The narrative we hear in these impacted communities is, 'I never thought it would happen here,' and so I think that gets people thinking, 'Well then, that can happen to me too,' " said Laura Wilson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia who studies how post-traumatic stress disorder develops after mass shootings.

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For some in Chicago, gun violence is a daily reality, leaving the same trauma as mass shootings

NBC News  online

2019-08-08

Although any gun violence is traumatic, the narrative surrounding mass shootings is much different than that of deadly shootings in poor neighborhoods, said Laura Wilson, a psychology professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “The narrative is typically that mass shooting victims are innocent people who were just living their lives, while other gun-related deaths are wrongly assumed to be deserved,” she said. “They are seen as gang-related or drug-related violence, but in actuality, when you read more closely, it's typically innocent bystanders that are just going to church or going out shopping.”

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When the Child Parents Love Becomes a Shooter

The Atlantic  online

2019-08-07

After a shooting, this sort of confusion abounds. “Everybody starts asking, What made this person do that?” Laura Wilson, a psychology professor at the University of Mary Washington, told me. “And I think the parents [of shooters] even more so are at a complete loss, because they feel like they should be able to explain it—they knew their child, probably better than most people.”

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Mass shootings transform how America talks, prays, prepares

Richmond Times-Dispatch; The News-Herald; Colorado Public Radio  online

2019-06-04

Laura Wilson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia conducted a meta-analysis — an examination of data from 11 studies of PTSD symptoms among more than 8,000 participants who ranged from those who'd witnessed shootings to those who just lived in the communities in a 20-year period.

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If You Graduate Right After A Mass Shooting, Good Luck: You’re On Your Own

BuzzFeed.News  online

2019-05-20

“The biggest concern I would have for them is the disconnect from people who have gone through similar things,” said Laura Wilson, a psychology professor at Virginia’s University of Mary Washington and editor of The Wiley Handbook of the Psychology of Mass Shootings.

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The Long Reach of Grief After Gun Violence

yr.media  online

2019-05-14

“A lot of what we see among survivors is that they struggle to understand why they survived when others didn’t, because they made the same decisions everyone else made,” said Dr. Laura Wilson, author of “The Wiley Handbook of the Psychology of Mass Shootings.” Wilson emphasized that each survivor and their recovery is unique and it’s essential not to generalize any “typical” survivor experience.

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Survivors of Sexual Assault Still Don’t Report It, Says Harvard Research Review

The Crime Report  online

2018-10-11

Laura C. Wilson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, led this review of 28 academic studies to estimate how often women who’ve been sexually assaulted do not label their experience as rape.

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Why many sexual assault survivors may not come forward for years

Journalist’s Resource  online

2018-10-08

Laura C. Wilson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, led this review of 28 academic studies to estimate how often women who’ve been sexually assaulted do not label their experience as rape.

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Articles

The Prevalence of Sexual Revictimization: A Meta-Analytic Review | Trauma, Violence, & Abuse

Hannah E Walker, Jennifer S Freud, Robyn A Ellis, Shawn M Fraine, Laura C Wilson

2017

The literature consistently demonstrates evidence that child sexual abuse survivors are at greater risk of victimization later in life than the general population. This phenomenon is called sexual revictimization. Although this finding is robust, there is a large amount of variability in the prevalence rates of revictimization demonstrated in the literature...

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Meta-analysis of the prevalence of unacknowledged rape | Trauma, Violence, & Abuse

Laura C Wilson, Katherine E Miller

2015

Many sexual violence survivors do not label their experiences as rape but instead use more benign labels, such as “bad sex” or “miscommunication.” A meta-analysis was conducted to estimate the mean prevalence of unacknowledged rape and to inform our understanding of methodological factors that influence the detection of this phenomenon. Studies were identified using PsycINFO, PubMED, and PILOTS and were required to report the percentage of unacknowledged rape that had occurred since the age of 14 among female survivors...

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The Prevalence of Military Sexual Trauma: A Meta-Analysis | Trauma, Violence, & Abuse

Laura C Wilson

2016

Due to methodological heterogeneity, the exact prevalence of military sexual trauma (MST) is unknown. To elucidate our understanding of the pervasiveness of this important social issue, a meta-analysis was conducted. A computerized database search in PsycINFO, PubMed, and PILOTS revealed 584 unique citations for review...

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The Relation of Exposure to Parental Criminal Activity, Arrest, and Sentencing to Children’s Maladjustment | Journal of Child and Family Studies

Danielle H. Dallaire, Laura C. Wilson

2010

We examined the psychosocial maladjustment of 32 children with an incarcerated parent from the child’s perspective as well as from the perspective of their caregiver. We focused on the relation between the incarcerated parent’s report of children’s exposure to parental criminal activity, arrest, and sentencing and caregivers’ and children’s self-reports of maladjustment. Results indicate that witnessing these events is associated with more behavior problems according to caregivers’ and children’s self-reports. Moreover, incarcerated parents’ reports of children’s exposure to these events predicted caregivers’ and children’s reports of maladjustment over a 6 month period. Our results also suggest that children with incarcerated mothers, in comparison to children with incarcerated fathers, are exposed to more of these events and may be experiencing greater maladjustment. Implications of these findings are discussed within a proactive context and the use of procedures that take children’s reactions to witnessing parental arrest and sentencing into consideration.

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Teachers' experiences with and expectations of children with incarcerated parents | Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology

Danielle H.Dallaire, Anne Ciccone, Laura C.Wilson

2010

Children with incarcerated parents, and mothers in particular, are at increased risk for academic failure and school dropout. In two studies, we examined teachers' experiences with children with incarcerated parents and their expectations for competence of children with incarcerated mothers. In Study 1, a descriptive, qualitative study, teachers (N = 30) discussed their experiences with children with incarcerated parents. The results of Study 1 suggest that children with incarcerated parents experience stigmatization in the school setting and children with incarcerated mothers are considered especially at risk. Based on the results of Study 1, we designed an experiment for Study 2 to examine teachers' (N = 73) expectations for competency of fictitious children new to class because of maternal incarceration. Teachers randomly assigned to a scenario describing a female student whose mother is away at prison rated the child as less competent than teachers randomly assigned to scenarios in which the child's mother was described as being away for other reasons.

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