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Sexual Abuse in Childhood and Sexual Dysfunction in Adulthood: An Australian Population-Based Study

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Abstract

This study examined self-reported adult sexual functioning in individuals reporting a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in a representative sample of the Australian population. A sample of 1793 persons, aged 18–59 years, were randomly selected from the electoral roll for Australian states and territories in April 2000. Respondents were interviewed about their health status and sexual experiences, including unwanted sexual experiences before the age of 16 years. More than one-third of women and approximately one-sixth of men reported a history of CSA. Women were more likely than men to report both non-penetrative and penetrative experiences of CSA. For both sexes, there was a significant association between CSA and symptoms of sexual dysfunction. In assessing the specific nature of the relationship between sexual abuse and sexual dysfunction, statistically significant associations were, in general, evident for women only. CSA was not associated with the level of physical or emotional satisfaction respondents experienced with their sexual activity. The total number of lifetime sexual partners was significantly and positively associated with CSA for females, but not for males; however, the number of sexual partners in the last year was not related to CSA. CSA in the Australian population is common and contributes to significant impairment in the sexual functioning of adults, especially women. These consequences appear not to extend to the other areas of sexual activity considered in this study.

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Correspondence to Jake M. Najman Ph.D.

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Najman, J.M., Dunne, M.P., Purdie, D.M. et al. Sexual Abuse in Childhood and Sexual Dysfunction in Adulthood: An Australian Population-Based Study. Arch Sex Behav 34, 517–526 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-005-6277-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-005-6277-6

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