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Psychosom Med. 2005 Jul-Aug;67(4):618-24.

The relationships among risk recognition, autonomic and self-reported arousal, and posttraumatic stress symptomatology in acknowledged and unacknowledged victims of sexual assault.

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1
Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122, USA. bmarx@temple.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

This study examined differences among acknowledged sexual assault victims, unacknowledged sexual assault victims, and nonvictims in risk recognition and its psychophysiological correlates.

METHODS:

Acknowledged and unacknowledged victims of sexual assault and nonvictims (n = 97) listened to a hypothetical date rape interaction and were asked to indicate the point at which the man had become sexually inappropriate. Self-report and physiological measures of emotional responding and a measure of risk recognition were used to evaluate both between- and within-subjects' differences.

RESULTS:

Relative to nonvictims and acknowledged victims, unacknowledged victims of sexual assault took significantly longer to recognize risk. Acknowledged victims displayed decreased heart rate activity to a portion of the hypothetical interaction, but self-reported greater arousal in response to the interaction and greater posttraumatic stress arousal symptomatology relative to nonvictims only. Posttraumatic stress symptomatology was related to self-reported emotional reactivity and response latency.

CONCLUSIONS:

The findings suggest that acknowledged and unacknowledged victims exhibit specific autonomic and behavioral response patterns that may perpetuate the cycle of traumatization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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