Avoiding Experiences: Sexual Dysfunction in Women with a History of Sexual Abuse in Childhood and Adolescence
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- Staples, J., Rellini, A.H. & Roberts, S.P. Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41: 341. doi:10.1007/s10508-011-9773-x
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Women with a history of sexual abuse during childhood/adolescence experience a high rate of sexual dysfunction. Evidence also suggests that they often use avoidant coping strategies, such as substance abuse, dissociation, and emotional suppression, which are likely factors implicated with their psychopathology. There is a dearth of information on potential psychological mechanisms affecting the sexuality of these women. Therefore, it is relevant to investigate whether avoidance, an important cognitive mechanism associated with anxiety disorders, relates to sexual functioning in this population. In this study, participants with (N = 34) and without (N = 22) a history of sexual abuse prior to age 16 years completed questionnaires on severity of sexual abuse, sexual functioning, and a tendency to avoid experiences. A three-step hierarchical regression investigated the effects of childhood/adolescent sexual abuse and avoidance tendencies on different aspects of sexual functioning. A significant interaction between childhood/adolescent sexual abuse and avoidance tendencies was found for orgasm function, with the combination of sexual abuse and avoidance tendencies explaining lower orgasm function. These findings suggest that, for women with a history of early sexual abuse, the tendency to avoid interpersonal closeness and avoid emotional involvement predicts orgasm functioning.