Approximately 90% of female rape victims and 65% of female nonsexual assault victims develop symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) immediately after their assaults, and these symptoms persist three months later in about 50% of victims. The primary goal of the proposed study is to evaluate the efficacy of a low cost, brief program that was developed to prevent chronic PTSD in the large subset of crime victims who exhibit severe acute symptoms, and who are therefore at high risk for developing the disorder. A second goal is to assess cognitive processes hypothesized to underlie PTSD, and to examine whether these processes are reversed by the prevention program.
The third aim i s to explore the relationship among psychological symptoms, coping styles, and physical health problems in female assault victims. Specifically, we propose to investigate whether providing the Brief Prevention program to victims who are symptomatic immediately after rape or aggravated assault, will protect them from developing chronic PTSD and health problems. Also, we will examine the relationship of PTSD, other psychopathology and health problems to: 1. victims' perceptions of global danger, 2. victims' perception of inability to cope with stress, and 3. victims' perceptions of aversive events as uncontrollable and unpredictable. In addition we will investigate whether the Brief Prevention program influences PTSD by changing such perceptions. Three-hundred-thirty symptomatic female victims of recent rape or nonsexual assault will be randomly assigned to either a Brief Prevention program or an Assessment Control condition, and receive 4 weekly active intervention or control sessions. Evaluations will include structured interviews and questionnaires, and will be conducted before and after the intervention, and at 2, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after study entry. Dependent measures will be PTSD symptom severity and diagnosis, depression, social functioning, general psychopathology, reported health problems, coping style, cognitive schemas, and expectancy and compliance with the prevention program.
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