Psychological Abuse in Intimate Relationships Increases Intensity of PTSD Symptoms


The most common forms of intimate partner violence (IPV) are sexual violence,

sexual coercion, psychological abuse and physical abuse and each causes significant psychological problems. 

The act of using pressure … to have sexual contact (physical or verbal/mental):
Pressure in this case can mean physical pressure, verbal pressure or emotional pressure. Physical pressure can include hitting, kicking and slapping the victim; holding the victim down; continuing with the sexual behavior after the victim has been told to stop; and even continuing to kiss the victim as he/she tries to pull away.

Verbal pressure includes behaviors like threatening to use physical force against the victim, yelling at the victim, name calling, tricking, lying, blackmailing and badgering the victim.

Emotional pressure is used much more frequently than physical and verbal pressure and is the most subtle of all the sexual coercion tactics. Using emotional pressure includes the perpetrator convincing the victim that he/she cares more for the victim than he/she actually does, threatening a break-up, wearing the victim down by using the same tactic over and over again, making the victim feel obligated to participate in sexual acts, guilting the victim participating, utilizing peer pressure and even the perpetrator using his/her position of authority over the victim.

 

“Many victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) experience negative mental health outcomes including anxiety problems, substance abuse, depression, and suicidal ideation,” said Amber Norwood and Christopher Murphy of the University of Maryland. “Most notable are high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with prevalence estimates ranging from 33% to 84%.” Yet in a relationship, not all four behaviors predict PTSD, according to a recent study conducted by Norwood and Murphy. The team theorized that because research suggests that intimate partner rape causes extreme psychological trauma, that sexual violence would be the strongest predictor of PTSD in IPV. In order to confirm their theory, the researchers interviewed 216 women who were in abusive relationships and asked them about the frequency and types of abuse that they experienced.

The results of the study revealed similar findings to previous research, with some exceptions. “As predicted, the rate of PTSD diagnosis was higher in both the sexual coercion (56.8%) and sexual violence (63.2%) groups when compared to the no sexual abuse group (32.3%),” said the researchers. But they were surprised by some of their findings, such as the fact that psychological abuse increased PTSD symptoms much more significantly than physical violence. Overall, exposure to sexual violence and sexual coercion together did increase the presence of PTSD. But when taken as separate factors, only sexual coercion was directly linked to increased PTSD symptoms. 

“Though not hypothesized, the finding that sexual coercion (which resembles psychological abuse) is more predictive of PTSD symptoms than sexual violence (which resembles physical abuse), appears to be consistent with the overall finding that psychological abuse had the most consistent unique associations with PTSD. When all four abuse variables—physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual coercion, and sexual violence—were examined together, only psychological abuse remained a significant unique predictor of PTSD symptoms.”

Reference:

Norwood, A., & Murphy, C. (2011, August 22). What Forms of Abuse Correlate With PTSD Symptoms in Partners of Men Being Treated for Intimate Partner Violence?. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025232

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