Psychological Distress and Revictimization Risk in Youth Victims of Sexual Abuse

Samantha L. Pittenger, Alayna Schreier, Katie Meidlinger, Jessica K. Pogue, Kate Theimer, Mary Fran Flood, David J. Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Psychological distress, including depression and anxiety, has been associated with increased risk for sexual revictimization in youth who have experienced child sexual abuse. The present study utilized assessment information from treatment seeking youth with histories of sexual abuse to explore specific risk indicators for revictimization—risk taking, social problems, maladaptive cognitions, and posttraumatic stress—that may be indicated by self-reported distress. The relationship between initial levels of distress and change in symptoms over a 12-week course of treatment was also explored. Participants were 101 youth referred to a child-focused therapeutic group for victims of sexual abuse, 65 youth referred to an adolescent-focused group, and their non-offending caregivers. Results revealed that when combined into a distress score, depression and anxiety were associated with delinquent behaviors, interpersonal difficulties, maladaptive cognitions, and posttraumatic stress symptoms for child and adolescent group participants at presentation to treatment. Children exhibited improvement on measures of interpersonal difficulties, maladaptive cognitions, and self-reported posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Adolescents exhibited less change over time, with significant improvement on self-reported social problems and PTSD only. Higher psychological distress was associated with less improvement in regard to negative expectations of abuse impact for child group participants. The findings suggest that distress indicates the presence of specific revictimization risk indicators, helping to identify targetable symptoms for intervention. Therefore, screening for psychological distress after discovery of sexual abuse may help detect youth at higher risk for revictimization and guide treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1930-1960
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • child abuse
  • revictimization
  • sexual abuse
  • treatment/intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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