Psychogenic amnesia for childhood sexual abuse and risk for sexual revictimisation in both adolescence and adulthood

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Abstract

This study was an investigation of the additional risk conferred by the experience of psychogenic amnesia for memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) on the likelihood of becoming a victim of sexual assault in later life. A total of 210 community respondents completed a retrospective web-based trauma survey. The majority of respondents were female (74.3%) and their ages ranged from 16 to 65 years, with a mean age of 33 years. Chi-squared analysis revealed that survivors of CSA demonstrated significantly greater risk (58%, χ 2=44.461, p = 0.0005) of experiencing sexual assault in adolescence in comparison with their non-abused counterparts (13%). Furthermore, survivors who reported having been amnesic for their abuse-related memories demonstrated a higher rate of adolescent revictimisation (86%) than survivors who had retained continuous memories of their victimisation (48%, χ 2=8.626, p = 0.003). Overall, once-amnesic survivors of CSA demonstrated 6.6 times the risk of sexual assault and an eight-fold risk for rape during adolescence in comparison with their non-abused counterparts. It is proposed that the elevated risk conferred by amnesia for CSA might be mediated by two distinct pathways, both of which are associated with the use of dissociation as a defence mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-349
Number of pages19
JournalSex Education
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

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