Pelvic Floor Muscle Problems Mediate Sexual Problems in Young Adult Rape Victims


Corresponding Author: Iva Bicanic, MSc, National Psychotrauma Centre for Children and Youth, University Medical Centre, Lundlaan 6, 3584 EA Utrecht, The Netherlands. Tel: 00-31-88-7554113; Fax: 00-31-88-7555325; E-mail:



Prior studies have addressed sexual abuse and sexual function in adult women. No studies have focused on the effect of adolescence rape on sexual functioning.


To investigate the effect of rape on sexual problems and on pelvic floor problems, as well as the mediating role of pelvic floor problems on sexual problems, in a homogenous group of victims of adolescence rape without a history of childhood sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse.

Main Outcome Measures

Sexual functioning and pelvic floor functioning were assessed using self-report questionnaires.


In this cross-sectional study, a group of 89 young women aged 18–25 years who were victimized by rape in adolescence was compared with a group of 114 nonvictimized controls. The rape victims were treated for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 3 years prior to participation in the study.


Three years posttreatment, rape victims were 2.4 times more likely to have a sexual dysfunction (lubrication problems and pain) and 2.7 times more likely to have pelvic floor dysfunction (symptoms of provoked vulvodynia, general stress, lower urinary tract, and irritable bowel syndrome) than nonvictimized controls. The relationship between rape and sexual problems was partially mediated by the presence of pelvic floor problems. Rape victims and controls did not differ with regard to sexual activities.


Rape victims suffer significantly more from sexual dysfunction and pelvic floor dysfunction when compared with nontraumatized controls, despite the provision of treatment for PTSD. Possibly, physical manifestations of PTSD have been left unaddressed in treatment. Future treatment protocols should consider incorporating (physical or psychological) treatment strategies for sexual dysfunction and/or pelvic floor dysfunction into trauma exposure treatments. Postma R, Bicanic I, van der Vaart H, and Laan E. Pelvic floor muscle problems mediate sexual problems in young adult rape victims. J Sex Med 2013;10:1978–1987.