Predictors of Acute Stress Symptoms in Rape Victims

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Abstract

Victims of traumatic experiences such as rape often report a variety of symptoms in the acute aftermath of trauma. Reactions to trauma may take the shape of acute stress disorder (ASD), which may later develop into posttraumatic stress disorder, or they may be symptoms of more general distress. The purpose of the present cross-sectional study was to test the hypothesis that symptoms of ASD and general stress, though correlated, represent two independent ways of reacting to trauma. Acute reactions to trauma were examined in a population of 150 female victims of sexual assault. Respondents were interviewed about demographic data and peritraumatic factors and filled out self-administered questionnaires concerning pretraumatic and post-traumatic factors including two dissociative items, ASD symptoms measured by the Acute Stress Disorder Scale and symptoms of general distress measured by a modified version of the Trauma Symptom Checklist. Two separate regression analyses were carried out to examine whether ASD and general distress are mediated by the same variables in the aftermath of rape. Dissociation significantly predicted ASD severity but not general distress, whereas relational problems and functional impairment emerged as significant predictors of general distress but not of ASD symptoms. Thus, even though symptoms of ASD and general distress were highly related to one another, the finding that the variables predicting ASD were different from those predicting general distress supports the assumption that ASD and general distress represent distinct trauma reactions. This finding is in accordance with previous research.

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