Victimization by sexual violence is strongly associated with the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While several psychological and cognitive factors are known to be associated with PTSD prognosis, multivariable analysis is scarce. This study examined factors affecting the severity of PTSD symptoms in early stage of traumatic experience of sexual violence, including initial post-traumatic symptoms and cognitive characteristics.
Participants were recruited from the center for women and children victims of violence in a university hospital. Thirty-four sexual assault victims were assessed at the baseline and the second visit one to five months after the baseline. At the baseline, an array of posttraumatic symptoms and cognitive functions were measured: at follow-up, PTSD symptoms were determined by Clinician Administered PTSD Scale.
Stepwise multiple regression showed that avoidance symptoms (β = 0.551, P < 0.01) and delayed verbal memory (β = -0.331, P < 0.05) at early stage of trauma predicted the severity of PTSD symptoms one to five month later. The regression model, factoring in avoidance and delayed verbal memory, showed a 34.9% explanatory power regarding the PTSD symptom severity.
This study suggests that avoidance symptoms and verbal memory at the early stage of trauma are associated with later PTSD symptoms. It is also suggested that early intervention targeting avoidance symptoms may be beneficial in decreasing PTSD symptoms.