The Relationship Between Childhood Abuse and Violent Victimization in Homeless and Marginally Housed Women: The Role of Dissociation as a Potential Mediator

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Objective: Previous studies have established a link between childhood abuse and dissociation. Other work has shown childhood abuse increases the likelihood of violent victimization in adulthood. Although it has been posited that dissociation may mediate childhood abuse and adult violent victimization, research investigating this hypothesis is sparse, particularly for extremely vulnerable populations such as homeless and unstably housed individuals. investigated the relationship between childhood abuse and dissociation on violent victimization in a cohort of homeless and unstably housed women. We also assessed whether dissociation mediated childhood abuse and violent victimization in this sample. Method: Participants were asked at an initial assessment and a 6-month follow-up to report any physical or sexual violence experienced in the previous 6 months. Questionnaires recording history of specific types of childhood abuse, dissociation, and other factors were also recorded at the initial assessment. Results: Hierarchical logistic regression models revealed that childhood sexual abuse (Odds ratio [OR] = 3.10, p < .01) and severe dissociation (OR = 1.99, p < .01) were significantly associated with recent physical violence, and childhood sexual abuse (OR = 3.88, p < .01) and dissociation (OR = 1.87, p < .05) were also associated with recent sexual violence. Dissociation mediated neither childhood abuse on recent physical violence or recent sexual violence. Conclusion: Developing approaches that effectively identify and treat dissociation as a part of an overall framework of trauma-informed care in homeless and unstably housed women may be an effective way to decrease future physical violence in this vulnerable population.

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