OBJECTIVE: We sought to explore the impact of sexual trauma on symptom severity, sense of coherence, and control orientation in female psychiatric inpatients diagnosed with and admitted for non-trauma-related mental disorders.
METHODS: A sample of 31 female inpatients with a reported history of sexual trauma (two thirds abused in childhood, one third raped in adulthood) were compared with 31 female inpatients with similar sociodemographic backgrounds, matched for age and psychiatric diagnosis.
FINDINGS: Compared with the sexually nontraumatized patients, the patients with a reported history of sexual trauma were neither more symptomatic nor did they have a more severe course of illness. No significant differences were found between the two groups with regard to sense of coherence and control orientation. Patients who had been raped in adulthood rated lower than all other patients in the Meaningfulness subscale of the Sense of Coherence Scale, indicating that their belief that there is good reason to care about what happens has been affected.
CONCLUSION: Based on the dimensions assessed, female psychiatric inpatients with a reported history of sexual trauma were not found to be significantly different from female inpatients without such a history. The burden of a mental disorder ensuing from the severity of illness symptoms and illness course is probably so high that the potential impact of a sexual trauma cannot manifest.