It is well established that childhood sexual abuse (CSA) increases the risk for subsequent sexual victimization. However, it is unclear why women with a CSA history may engage in risky behaviours and vulnerability-increasing cognitions that put them at risk for revictimization to a greater degree than women without a CSA history. I proposed and tested a model that uses attachment theory to interpret the increased involvement in risk factors for unwanted sex among women with a CSA history. The proposed model suggests that the extent to which women with a CSA history rely on insecure attachment strategies predicts their involvement in risk factors (sexual activity, substance use, and risk perception deficits) that, in turn, increase the likelihood of unwanted sexual experiences in adolescence and adulthood. Three hundred and eight university women completed measures of childhood and adolescent/adult sexual victimization, attachment strategies, sexual activity, substance use, and risk recognition in a date rape scenario. Among the risk factors assessed, only sexual activity mediated between CSA and unwanted sex. Substance use was not associated with CSA; but it was associated with sexual activity and was a risk factor for unwanted sex. Attachment insecurity was not associated with increased involvement in risk factors, and thus did not mediate the revictimization process as proposed. However, avoidant attachment strategies, especially in the context of low attachment anxiety, were associated with an increased risk for unwanted sexual experiences independent of the other risk factors. Discussion focuses on the potential value of attachment theory as an organizational framework for understanding sexual revictimization.
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Thesis advisor: Bartholomew, Kim
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