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Risk Factors for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Female Help-Seeking Victims of Sexual Assault

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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common in the aftermath of rape and other sexual assault, but the risk factors leading to PTSD following rape have been shown to differ from those related to PTSD following nonsexual assault. This prospective study examined risk factors for PTSD severity in 148 female help-seeking victims of sexual assault. Approximately 70% of the victims experienced significant levels of traumatization, with 45% reporting symptoms consistent with a probable PTSD diagnosis. Regression analyses showed that relationship with the assailant, number of assailants, the nature of the assault, perceived positive social support, support satisfaction, feeling let down by others, and prior exposure to sexual trauma did not significantly predict PTSD severity at the final level of analysis. In accordance with suggestions by Dancu, Riggs, Hearst-Ikeda, and Shoyer (1996), it is suggested that this is partly caused by a very high degree of traumatization in the sample. Instead, previous nonsexual traumatic experiences and negative affectivity accounted for 30% of the variance in PTSD severity. Although more research is needed on risk factors of assault-related PTSD, these findings suggest that although sexual assault is associated with a high degree of PTSD severity, prior nonsexual victimization and high levels of negative affectivity appear to further increase the vulnerability toward developing symptoms of assault-related PTSD.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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