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Title: An examination of the psychological sequelae of female sexual victimisation
Author: O'Neill, Tara
ISNI:       0000 0004 5360 2881
Awarding Body: Ulster University
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2014
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Following years of disregarding and minimising the incidence and consequences of childhood adverse events, researchers and clinicians have recently established that a broad range of negative adverse experiences act as significant risk factors in the onset of mental health problems and particularly psychosis (Read & Bentall, 2012). However, within this complex trauma-psychosis paradigm the detrimental long term effects of sexual trauma have been consistently overlooked and disregarded as a risk factor in the etiology of psychological disorders. In addition, some evidence has suggested that sexual trauma in both childhood and adulthood leads to negative attributions and dissociation which may heighten vulnerability to the onset of psychotic-like symptomology (Copeland, Keeler, Angold, & Costello, 2007). In view of this, a retrospective cohort study was carried out in order to explore the mechanisms of a sequential process (sexual trauma-increased psychological distress-vulnerability to psychosis) in 269 sexual trauma survivors and 85 control participants. Results demonstrated that sexually traumatised participants had elevated levels of a broad range of psychological symptomology including dissociation, depression, anxiety and stress, with 65% of the sample meeting the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for PTSD. In addition, it was found that these participants had increased early adverse experiences and a reduced sense of social status and rank in comparison to others. Finally it was found that sexual trauma was associated with the development of psychotic-like experiences (PLEs), particularly hallucinatory experiences and delusional ideation and dissociative depersonalisation was found to mediate this relationship. The research conclusions of this thesis demonstrate the need to go beyond conceptualising sexual trauma in isolation and to examine in more detail how other mediating variables may contribute to overall traumatology. Consistent with the findings from Fergusson et aI., (1996), sexual abuse cannot be regarded as an isolated factor but should be seen in the context of a large number of intervening variables that individually create small contributions to the risk of psychopathology but in combination crucially impact on individual adjustment. Research such as this, which emphasises the deleterious outcomes associated with sexual trauma should be instrumental in leading treatment and assessment formulation for survivors and to improve service provision and responses to sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available