Abuse Characteristics and Individual Differences Related to Disclosing Childhood Sexual, Physical, and Emotional Abuse and Witnessed Domestic Violence.
Bottoms, Bette L. Peter-Hagene, Liana C. Epstein, Michelle A. Wiley, Tisha R. A. Reynolds, Carrie E. Rudnicki, Aaron G.
Published: April 2016
Journal of Interpersonal Violence
Vol. 31, No. 7 , p. 1308-1339
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Tel: 800-818-7243 805-499-0721 805-499-9774 (order pubs)
Fax: 800-583-2665 805-499-0871
Many adult survivors of childhood abuse hide their victimization, avoiding disclosure that could identify perpetrators, end the abuse, and bring help to the victim. We surveyed 1,679 women undergraduates to understand disclosure of childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and, for the first time, witnessed domestic violence, which many consider to be emotionally abusive. A substantial minority of victims failed to ever disclose their sexual abuse (23%), physical abuse (34%), emotional abuse (20%), and witnessed domestic violence (29%). Overall, abuse-specific factors were better predictors of disclosure than individual-level characteristics. Disclosure of sexual abuse was related to experiencing more frequent abuse (by the same and by multiple perpetrators), being more worried about injury and more upset at the time of the abuse, and self-labeling as a victim of abuse. Disclosure of physical abuse was related to experiencing more frequent abuse (by the same and multiple perpetrators), being less emotionally close to the perpetrator, being older when the abuse ended, being more worried and upset, and self-labeling as a victim. Disclosure of emotional abuse was associated with being older when the abuse ended, and being more worried and upset. Disclosure was unrelated to victim demographic characteristics or defensive reactions (dissociative proneness, fantasy proneness, repressive coping style, and temporary forgetting), except that among physical and emotional abuse victims, repressors were less likely to disclose than non-repressors. Disclosure of witnessing domestic violence was not significantly related to any factors measured. (Author abstract)
child abuse; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; disclosure; predictor variables; psychological characteristics; child witnesses of family violence; spouse abuse; childhood trauma