Trauma and Touch: Apprehension of Touch and Relationship Quality in Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma
Date of Award
Sexual assault is linked to poor romantic relationships but sexual assault in the military is linked to more severe outcomes than civilian assault (Surís et al., 2007).One in four women Veterans report military sexual trauma (MST; VA, nd). MST is highly correlated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and lower relationship satisfaction, which is problematic as relationship quality buffers against PTSD and dysfunction secondary to MST. Relationship quality is multidimensional and includes satisfaction with physical touch; the effects of sexual trauma on touch apprehension have not been examined in those with MST. Moreover, it is not clear whether contact MST (e.g., rape) and non-contact MST (e.g., verbal harassment) differentially relate to touch apprehension and relationship quality. Findings from this line of research could provide helpful insights into ways to improve individual and couple-level interventions to address PTSD and MST. The current study examined the association of MST type (contact/non-contact), PTSD severity, touch apprehension, and relationship quality in 215 partnered women Veterans who reported a history of MST. The majority of the sample (74.9%) reported contact MST. Bivariate analyses revealed that higher touch apprehension was negatively associated relationship quality (r=.20, p<.01) and touch apprehension was higher in Veterans who reported contact MST (M=36.14, SD=9.76) vs. non-contact (M=40.95, SD=9.77) MST (higher scores indicate lower touch apprehension). In a step-wise regression accounting for demographic risk factors, Touch apprehension was associated with lower relationship quality (partial r=-0.24, p<.01). MST type was nonsignificant. A model of the possible moderating role of MST type with touch apprehension and relationship quality was investigated but was nonsignificant. These findings suggest that distinguishing between type of MST (e.g., contact vs non-contact) and assessing touch apprehension may be useful when studying or treating MST. Understanding the link between touch apprehension and relationship quality in survivors of MST through the use of such measures provide helpful information that contributes to a more complete clinical understanding.
Christensen, Danielle, "Trauma and Touch: Apprehension of Touch and Relationship Quality in Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma" (2016). Undergraduate Honors Capstone Projects. 553.
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Rebecca K. Blais
Departmental Honors Advisor