Sexual trauma is associated with particularly harmful consequences in comparison to other types of trauma. Studies investigating differences between trauma-types usually focus on the most distressing (i.e., main) trauma of each participant and do not consider the cumulative effects of multiple traumas, which many individuals experience. We sought to fill this gap by examining the effects of trauma-type (sexual vs. nonsexual), as well as the focality assigned to the sexual trauma (whether it was perceived as a main vs. background trauma), on symptoms and self-perceptions. Our sample comprised 231 Jewish-Israeli women: 96 with a single trauma-type and 135 with multiple (two to three) trauma-types. Women completed online measures of trauma history, symptoms, and self-perceptions. Women who were exposed to sexual trauma reported greater symptom severity and self-perception impairments than women with a history of nonsexual trauma-type(s). Among women with multiple trauma-types, those with a main sexual trauma reported greater symptom severity and self-perception impairments than women with a background sexual trauma. When controlling for levels of posttraumatic symptoms, differences in self-perceptions ceased to be significant. Our findings highlight the importance of collecting a detailed trauma history, with attention to trauma-centrality, and of addressing various symptoms and self-perceptions among sexual trauma survivors.
- cumulative trauma
- sexual trauma
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Gender Studies
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)