Psychosocial correlates of PTSD symptom severity in sexual assault survivors


  • This article was edited by the journal's previous editor, Dean G. Kilpatrick.


This study's goal was to assess the effects of preassault, assault, and postassault psychosocial factors on current posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms of sexual assault survivors. An ethnically diverse sample of over 600 female sexual assault survivors was recruited from college, community, and mental health agency sources (response rate = 90%). Regression analyses tested the hypothesis that postassault psychosocial variables, including survivors' responses to rape and social reactions from support providers, would be stronger correlates of PTSD symptom severity than preassault or assault characteristics. As expected, few demographic or assault characteristics predicted symptoms, whereas trauma histories, perceived life threat during the assault, postassault characterological self-blame, avoidance coping, and negative social reactions from others were all related to greater PTSD symptom severity. The only protective factor was survivors' perception that they had greater control over their recovery process in the present, which predicted fewer symptoms. Recommendations for intervention and treatment with sexual assault survivors are discussed.