Trauma, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, and Dissociative Experiences During Men’s Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration

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Objective: Research with partner-violent men has found that a subset of this population reports dissociative experiences during their violence (e.g., inability to remember violence [despite admission that it had occurred]; flashbacks during violence). However, the literature examining this phenomenon has been primarily limited to clinical observations and case studies, and there is a need for more thorough empirical investigation regarding the prevalence and correlates of dissociative violence among individuals in intimate partner violence (IPV) intervention programs. The primary goals of this study were to provide descriptive information about the rates of endorsement of dissociative experiences during IPV perpetration and to examine their associations with trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Method: Participants were 302 men presenting for services at a community-based IPV intervention program. All variables were assessed via self-report and clinician interview at program intake. Results: Results indicated that 22.2% of participants reported 1 or more dissociative experiences during partner violence perpetration. Additionally, frequency of dissociative IPV perpetration showed significant positive correlations with the total number of potentially traumatic events (PTEs) reported and PTSD symptoms, with effect sizes in the small and medium ranges of magnitude, respectively. Finally, PTSD symptoms significantly mediated the relationship between total number of PTEs and dissociative IPV perpetration. Conclusions: Findings indicate a potentially meaningful relationship between trauma, PTSD symptoms, and dissociative experiences during IPV perpetration. Further qualitative and quantitative investigation is needed to better understand this phenomenon and how it can be addressed in IPV treatment.

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