College of Psychology Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award

1-1-2010

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)

Department

Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Lenore E Walker

Second Advisor

David Shapiro

Third Advisor

Jeffrey L Kibler

Keywords

childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner violence

Abstract

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and intimate partner violence (IPV) are both crimes with high prevalence rates which frequently have females as their victims. Survivors of each are frequently found in psychotherapy, yet to date few studies have examined the interaction between each form of gender violence. The present study looked at several ways in which CSA and IPV interact, including assessing prevalence rates of CSA among female IPV survivors, examining somatic difficulties found among female CSA survivors who are also survivors of IPV vs. female non-CSA IPV survivor controls, and by exploring body image and sexual difficulties found among female CSA survivors who are also survivors of IPV vs. female non-CSA IPV survivor controls. Participants were a sample of 140 women with a history of domestic violence recruited from a variety of settings including community mental health facilities and correctional facilities.

Results showed that all three forms of childhood maltreatment studied (CSA, childhood physical abuse (CPA), and childhood witnessing of IPV) were elevated among survivors of IPV; rates of CSA were 51.4% within our sample of female survivors of IPV, rates of CPA were 52.1%, and rates of childhood witnessing of IPV were 67.1% within the same sample. Among various somatic complaints studied (sleep difficulties, depression, eating difficulties, and weight problems), female CSA survivors of IPV evidenced higher rates of childhood sleep difficulties, childhood and adulthood depression, and adulthood eating difficulties than did female non-CSA IPV survivor controls. While participants overall evidenced high rates of problems with body image and sexuality, there were no significant differences between female CSA survivors of IPV and female non-CSA IPV survivor controls within this study. Possible reasons underlying the latter negative findings were discussed. Both groups showed higher rates of body image and sexual dysfunction than would be predicted for normative participants, though given the absence of a normal control group in the present study it is difficult to discern how much higher these rates might be.

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