School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (PhD)


Fred Volk


Self-induced Moral Injury, Sexual Shame, Self-forgiveness


Counseling | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Self-induced moral injuries caused by compulsive sexual behavior can result in experiences of sexual shame. Shame is a pervasive experience of unworthiness, and it can become a significant obstacle to life and relationship satisfaction because it leads to negative cognitions and isolating behaviors. Self-induced moral injuries occur when a person's wrongdoing challenges their worldview and spiritual beliefs. Moral injuries impact the individual's affect, cognition, and behavioral responses to morally traumatic events. Individuals who morally injure themselves and others struggle to take responsibility, make cognitive and behavioral changes, and forgive themselves. Several research studies have examined the impact of shame on human suffering, spiritual beliefs, and recovery from issues of moral injury, sexual shame, and unforgiveness. However, previous studies have failed to explore the multiple types of relationship issues that accompany perpetrator moral injuries and sexual shame; therefore, the current study was designed to expand the research in this area. The purpose of the current research is to explore the relationships between moral injury, sexual shame, and the well-being outcome variables and the moderating role of self-forgiveness and its components, values reorientation, and esteem restoration. The analysis of these constructs occurs through qualitative correlations, simple mediation models, and moderated mediation analysis. The results of this study reveal significant positive relationships between moral injury and sexual shame. Additionally, significant positive direct and indirect relationships were established between moral injury and sexual shame and the well-being outcomes of loneliness, religious and spiritual struggle, and sexual shame experiences. However, the moderation analysis did not occur as anticipated.

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