College of Psychology: Faculty Articles


Ethnicity and Sexual Orientation Mitigate PTSD in Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors

Document Type


Publication Date



Child Sexual Abuse, Demographics, PTSD, Sexuality, Sexual Orientation

Publication Title

Journal of Family Violence








Purpose and Potential benefits: Research, to our knowledge, has not examined the effect of demographic variables on PTSD symptoms among adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). This study explores the relationship between demographic variables and scores of CSA survivors on the Impact of Scale (IES). Participants were 257 women CSA survivors entering outpatient treatment at a university-based mental health center. All participants reported a CSA history and presented with psychological difficulties associated with CSA. The demographic variables investigated were relationship status, religious affiliation, ethnicity, educational level, spousal educational level income, and sexual orientation. Significance tests were used to examine each variable and scores on the Total IES and Avoidance and Intrusion Subscales. Total IES and Intrusion scores differed for sexual orientation and ethnicity in accord with conventional standards of significance (α< .05). Self-reported asexuals indicated fewer intrusive and total PTSD symptoms than heterosexuals, lesbians, and bisexuals. Likewise, Hispanics reported less intrusive PTSD symptoms than Non-Hispanic Caucasians. Our findings invite further exploration of the relationship between ethnicity and sexual orientation and the long-term effects of CSA. A question for empirical investigation is whether asexuality shields against the triggering of CSA memories by a sexual relationship. Another possible area of inquiry is whether particular characteristics of Hispanic culture as a whole serve to moderate the detrimental effects of CSA.