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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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Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122, USA.



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


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.


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.


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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