Psychological Characteristics of Women Who Do or Do Not Report a History of Sexual Abuse

Robin J. Lewis, Old Dominion University
Jessica L. Griffin, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Barbara A. Winstead, Old Dominion University
Jennifer A. Morrow, Old Dominion University
Courtney P. Schubert, Old Dominion University

At the time of publication, Jessica Griffin was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.


Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a prevalent form of violence in our society. The exact number of women sexually abused as children is not known, as the estimated rates vary from 6% to 62%. This study examined the psychological characteristics of women with and without a history of CSA. A nonclinical sample of 255 undergraduate women served as volunteer participants. The variables measured included: Adult Romantic Attachment, Depression, Anxiety, Traumatic Symptoms, Cognitive Distortions, Maladaptive Schemas, and Borderline Personality Features. Women who reported a history of abuse evidenced marked differences from those who did not across a broad spectrum of variables. A majority of CSA survivors did not seek any treatment. These results are discussed relative to prevention and early intervention efforts that are necessary to assist this underserved population.