Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence (2016), 31 pp. DOI: 10.1177/0886260516658755


Copyright © 2016 Samantha L. Pittenger, Alayna Schreier, Katie Meidlinger, Jessica K. Pogue, Kate Theimer, Mary Fran Flood, and David J. Hansen. Published by SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


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.