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Behav Modif. 2012 Jan;36(1):67-86. doi: 10.1177/0145445511421436. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

The feeling of being contaminated in adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and its treatment via a two-session program of cognitive restructuring and imagery modification: a case study.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Psychology and Intervention, Institute of Psychology, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt Main, Germany.


Clinical experiences show that many survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) suffer from a distressing feeling of being contaminated (FBC) even years or decades after the last experience of sexual violence. So far, this symptom has been neglected in research. The aim of this article is to illustrate this symptom and the necessity of a specialized treatment. Phenomenology, consequences, and possible concepts of explanation are described. The article presents a newly developed short-time treatment, cognitive restructuring and imagery modification, to reduce the FBC in adult survivors of CSA. Two case studies on women suffering from chronic CSA-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) plus the FBC demonstrate the outcome of the two-session program that can easily be integrated in a whole treatment program. They show that the treatment results in a reduction of the FBC and PTSD symptoms after CSA.

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