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Abstract

Although adult sexual assault has been suggested to be a risk factor for disordered eating, little is known about the pathways leading to this disorder. This study aimed to examine the mediating effect of depressive symptoms and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in the relationship between sexual assault and disordered eating among female students. A sample of 296 French female students completed a questionnaire assessing experiences of sexual assault from age 15, PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, and disordered eating. Results revealed that PTSD symptoms fully mediated the effect of early adult sexual assault on disordered eating (B = 1.10, SE = 1.64), and depressive symptoms were a partial mediator of this relationship (B = 2.64, SE = 1.28). When examining both mediators simultaneously the relationship was fully mediated and neither variable emerged as a significantly stronger mediator. Our findings highlight the complex relationship between PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, and disordered eating following sexual assault. Further investigation into the temporal relationships between these variables would contribute to inform prevention interventions for disordered eating.