Sexual Assault History May Moderate Posttraumatic Cognition and Posttraumatic Stress Among Trauma-Exposed Sexual Minority Women

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Sexual minority women (SMW) are highly vulnerable to trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms following trauma exposure. Negative posttraumatic cognitions (i.e., negative cognitions about self, word, and self-blame following trauma exposure) are hypothesized to exacerbate and maintain the relationship between trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms. Posttraumatic cognitions are particularly important to examine in relation to PTSD symptoms among trauma exposed SMW given their elevated risk for trauma exposure and PTSD. It is also important to understand whether the strength of this relationship differs as a function of trauma type to elucidate potentially differential pathways for risk by trauma type in this population. The current study explored whether trauma type (sexual assault vs. non-sexual trauma) moderated the relationship between negative posttraumatic cognitions and PTSD symptom severity among a sample of trauma-exposed SMW. Participants were SMW (n = 516) users of online survey platform, Prolific. Data were collected via 20-minute online survey. Results indicated that trauma type moderated the relationship between negative posttraumatic cognitions and PTSD symptom severity, such that the relationship was stronger among those who had experienced at least one sexual assault in their lifetime. Results suggest that negative posttraumatic cognitions may be more strongly related to PTSD symptom severity among SMW who have experienced at least one sexual assault. Notably, this difference was in magnitude only, as the posttraumatic cognition – PTSD symptom relationship remained significant among non-sexual trauma survivors. Negative posttraumatic cognitions may be an especially relevant treatment target among SMW survivors of sexual assault.

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Behavior Therapy

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