Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 1059–1064

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

  • Philipp Kuwert
  • Heide Glaesmer
  • Svenja Eichhorn
  • Elena Grundke
  • Robert H. Pietrzak
  • Harald J. Freyberger
  • Thomas Klauer
Original Paper


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.


Trauma PTSD Wartime rape War Sexual violence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philipp Kuwert
    • 1
  • Heide Glaesmer
    • 2
  • Svenja Eichhorn
    • 2
  • Elena Grundke
    • 1
  • Robert H. Pietrzak
    • 3
    • 4
  • Harald J. Freyberger
    • 1
  • Thomas Klauer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity Medicine Greifswald at the HELIOS Hansehospital StralsundStralsundGermany
  2. 2.Department of Medical Psychology and Medical SociologyUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.National Center for Posttraumatic Stress DisorderVA Connecticut Healthcare SystemWest HavenUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA

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