Post-Traumatic Growth, Dissociation, and Sexual Revictimization in Female Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors

Yael Lahav*, Karni Ginzburg, David Spiegel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivors are at high risk of sexual revictimization. At the same time, some survivors report positive transformations resulting from the traumatic experience, a phenomenon known as post-traumatic growth (PTG). Although one might expect PTG to be related to reduced risk of revictimization, the link between PTG and revictimization has not been investigated. Furthermore, mixed findings regarding the associations between PTG and distress imply that the effects of PTG are multifaceted. One potential explanation may be that dissociation shapes the implications of PTG, making it more like denial than adaptive processing of traumatic experience. This longitudinal study explores (a) the associations between PTG and sexual revictimization and (b) the moderating role of dissociation within the associations between PTG and revictimization. Method: Participants were 111 female CSA survivors who participated in a 6-month efficacy trial evaluating the effectiveness of group psychotherapy for CSA survivors with HIV risk factors. Results: Dissociation moderated the associations between PTG and revictimization: Whereas PTG had nonsignificant effects on revictimization in participants with low dissociation, it predicted elevated levels of revictimization in participants with high dissociation. Conclusions: Reports of PTG among some CSA survivors might mirror dissociative beliefs that increase their risk of revictimization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-105
Number of pages10
JournalChild Maltreatment
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020

Keywords

  • childhood sexual abuse
  • dissociation
  • post-traumatic growth
  • sexual revictimization
  • trauma

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