Understanding Revictimization Among Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors: An Interpersonal Schema Approach
Revictimization among women with a history of childhood sexual abuse was investigated within the context of a developmental model of interpersonal schemas. Data from the Interpersonal Schema Questionnaire (ISQ) revealed contrasting schema characteristics among sexually revictimized women (those sexually abused in childhood and sexually assaulted in adulthood) (n = 26), compared to those only abused in childhood (n = 18), and those never abused or assaulted (n = 25). Both revictimized women and never victimized women significantly generalized their predominant parental schemas to current relationships and differed only in the content of the schemas. The generalized parental schema of revictimized women viewed others as hostile and controlling while that of never victimized women viewed others as warm and noncontrolling. Women who had only been abused in childhood held schemas of parents as hostile but not controlling and did not generalize from parental to current schemas. The tendency to generalize observed in the first two groups suggest that “repetition compulsion” is not limited to those who were traumatized and are psychologically distressed. In this article, reasons for the absence of generalization among the childhood abuse only group are explored and implications for the treatment of childhood trauma survivors are discussed.