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Child Abuse Negl. 1988;12(2):201-8.

Sexual abuse: somatic and emotional reactions.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Maricopa Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ 85010.


A chart review and telephone interview of 72 sexual abuse victims was conducted to determine if children and adolescents who are victims of sexual abuse suffer from symptoms similar to the "rape trauma syndrome," which has been reported in adults. Symptoms similar to the rape trauma syndrome were found in 48 of the 72 abused children and only 26 of the matched control group, p less than .01. Common somatic complaints in the sexual abuse patients included dysuria, vaginal discharge and chronic abdominal pain. Some of the emotional and behavioral problems noted during the follow-up period among the sexual abuse patients included sleep problems, runaway behavior, and suicide attempts. The duration of abuse and age of the victim at the time of abuse significantly affected the frequency of reported somatic symptoms, but the type of abuse and type of assailant did not significantly affect the frequency of reported somatic and emotional reactions. There was no difference in the occurrence of school problems and early pregnancy between sexually abused patients and controls. Since 67% of all sexually abused patients suffered from emotional and somatic reactions, close follow-up of these patients is indicated.

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