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Keywords:

  • childhood sexual abuse;
  • rape;
  • eating disturbance

Abstract

Objective

This study examined the relationship between sexual trauma and eating disorder behavior, taking into account the effects of developmental stage of the victim and the effects of multiple sexual assaults.

Method

Four groups of adult women took part in this study. Subjects were either victims of childhood sexual abuse, victims of rape in adulthood, victims of both childhood sexual abuse and rape, and controls who were not traumatized sexually. All subjects were assessed with semistructured interviews and self-report inventories that assessed eating disorder behavior, general psychopathology, and impulsivity.

Results

Victims of childhood sexual abuse differed from controls on measures of eating disorder behavior and individuals who had experienced both childhood sexual abuse and rape in adulthood were most likely to display eating disorder-related psychopathology. Victims of childhood sexual abuse also distinguished themselves with high levels of eating disorder behavior plus multiple forms of impulsive self-destructive behavior.

Discussion

This study provides additional support for the association between childhood sexual abuse and eating disorder behavior. Childhood sexual abuse may be particularly linked to the presence of binge eating behavior and several other forms of impulsive self-destructive behavior. © 2001 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 30: 401–412, 2001.