Grace E. Rowland, Juliann B. Purcell, Lauren A. M. Lebois, Milissa L. Kaufman, Nathaniel G. Harnett

Child sexual abuse versus adult sexual assault: A review of psychological and neurobiological sequelae

AbstractSexual trauma (ST) occurs with alarming frequency in the United States in the form of both childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and adulthood sexual assault (ASA). It is well established that the effects of ST are pervasive and that ST can be a risk factor for the development of several psychiatric disorders. However, the potential for distinct psychological consequences or neural correlates between CSA and ASA has received little attention. Furthermore, despite the high prevalence of sexual revictimization, the combinatorial effects of CSA and ASA are understudied in comparison to each form of ST on its own. In the current review, we present results from both clinical psychology and neuroscience research on the impacts of CSA and ASA, describing major psychological, biopsychosocial, and neuroimaging findings for each form of ST. We further highlight limitations in the current state of the research and needed areas of future research to better understand the distinct, overlapping, and cumulative effects of ST in both childhood and adulthood. The present study summarizes the state of the literature on this critical form of trauma and provides recommendations for future clinical research practices to mitigate the deleterious outcomes of ST.

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