Exploring the Roles of Compassion and PTSD on Global Distress after Sexual Trauma

Runa Dawood, Jane Vosper, Chris Irons, Stuart Gibson, Gary Brown

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Recovery from sexual trauma is understood to be complex and multi-faceted. Current psychological treatment protocols for trauma largely involve using a cognitive model of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, sexual trauma may include specific complexities and the distress experienced after sexual abuse may involve variables not exclusive to a PTSD model. This study explored the relationship between Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) related variables, PTSD and Global Distress in survivors of sexual abuse. Questionnaires were administered online investigating these variables using a cross-sectional design. Participants included adults who had experienced sexual abuse or any unwanted sexual experience at any point in their lives. 155 participants completed questionnaires pertaining to CFT; specifically self-compassion, receiving compassion from others, having a fear of compassion from others, having a fear of compassion for the self, shame and self-criticism. Participants were also asked to complete a questionnaire measuring global distress as the outcome of sexual abuse and a questionnaire measuring PTSD symptoms as a comparison to the CFT related variables. Results found that the exploratory model including CFT related variables explained significantly more of the variance (66.7% in total) in global distress than PTSD symptomology alone (F(8,145)=2.65, R2=0.69, p=0.01). This data supports the development of treatments including CFT alongside the standard cognitive model of PTSD based treatments for survivors of sexual abuse. Future research may explore experimental designs utilising CFT in this population, as well as further investigations of the roles of these specific variables.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Vosper, Jane, Supervisor
  • Irons, Chris, Supervisor, External person
  • Gibson, Stuart, Supervisor, External person
  • Brown, Gary, Supervisor
Award date1 Jul 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • Sexual abuse
  • Compassion focused therapy
  • Compassion
  • Trauma
  • Sexual trauma
  • Therapy

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