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 (4)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD
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.
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 (11)
Police officer killed in ‘ambush’ by man who ‘expressed hatred’ of law enforcement, officials say
The Washington Post
Laura C. Wilson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, said that years ago she might have thought about each mass shooting or shooting in a public place as having unique characteristics that affect survivors. But she now considers the trauma of multiple events. “When we start to see a lot of these events happening in a small community or within the country, we start to have these compounding impacts,” she said. “People now have more evidence that the world is unpredictable, more evidence that regardless of what I do I can’t keep myself safe.”
A closed door, and a prayer: Woman hid as man fired shots in Colorado
Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette online
Laura C. Wilson, associate professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., has focused on post-trauma functioning from mass trauma.
'Still a mess': Trauma haunts U.S. mass shooting survivors due to gaps in mental healthcare
Laura Wilson, a clinical psychology professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, whose research has focused in part on survivors of mass shootings, said she is concerned that the pandemic is overlooked as a complicating factor.
Survivors Grapple With Putting Trauma Aside To Vote For Joe Biden
The Huffington Post online
“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.”
Rape is Still Rape, Even When Consensual Sex Happens Later
The Huffington Post online
“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.”
The teens of TikTok are taking on school shootings
Fox 40, WICZ; News 3, WTKR online
"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.
False Reports Of Gunmen In N.Y.C. And Virginia Cause Jitters Following Mass Shootings
"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.
For some in Chicago, gun violence is a daily reality, leaving the same trauma as mass shootings
NBC News online
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.”
When the Child Parents Love Becomes a Shooter
The Atlantic online
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.”
Mass shootings transform how America talks, prays, prepares
Richmond Times-Dispatch; The News-Herald; Colorado Public Radio online
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.
If You Graduate Right After A Mass Shooting, Good Luck: You’re On Your Own
“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.
The Prevalence of Sexual Revictimization: A Meta-Analytic ReviewTrauma, 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...
Meta-analysis of the prevalence of unacknowledged rapeTrauma, 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...
The Prevalence of Military Sexual Trauma: A Meta-AnalysisTrauma, 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...
The Relation of Exposure to Parental Criminal Activity, Arrest, and Sentencing to Children’s MaladjustmentJournal 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.
Teachers' experiences with and expectations of children with incarcerated parentsJournal 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.