, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 1059-1064
Date: 07 Mar 2014

Long-Term Effects of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Compared with Non-Sexual War Trauma in Female World War II Survivors: A Matched Pairs Study

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Abstract

The aim of the study was to compare the long-term effects of conflict-related sexual violence experienced at the end of World War II (WWII) with non-sexual WWII trauma (e.g., being exposed to shell shock or physical violence). A total of 27 elderly wartime rape survivors were compared to age- and gender-matched control subjects who were drawn from a larger sample of subjects over 70 years of age who had experienced WWII-related trauma. A modified version of the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale was used to assess trauma characteristics and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and the Brief Symptom Inventory-18 was used to assess current psychopathology. Additionally, measures of posttraumatic growth (Posttraumatic Growth Inventory) and social acknowledgement as a trauma survivor (Social Acknowledgement Questionnaire) were used to assess two mediating variables in post-trauma conditions of rape victims. Women exposed to conflict-related sexual violence reported greater severity of PTSD-related avoidance and hyperarousal symptoms, as well as anxiety, compared with female long-term survivors of non-sexual WWII trauma. The vast majority (80.9 %) of these women also reported severe sexual problems during their lifetimes relative to 19.0 % of women who experienced non-sexual war trauma. Women exposed to conflict-related sexual violence also reported greater posttraumatic growth, but less social acknowledgement as trauma survivors, compared to survivors of non-sexual war trauma. The results were consistent with emerging neurobiological research, which suggests that different traumas may be differentially associated with long-term posttraumatic sequelae in sexual assault survivors than in other survivor groups and highlights the need to treat (or better prevent) deleterious effects of conflict-related sexual violence in current worldwide crisis zones.