Link between past sexual violence and distress on pelvic exam

By Daryl Shane De Mesa | Oct 06, 2014 01:16 AM EDT

Explored in Violence and Gender journal

Women who have a history of violent sexual abuse may suffer emotional distress during a routine pelvic examination. Healthcare providers would benefit from greater awareness of symptoms predictive of examination-related distress in this patient population, according to a study published in Violence and Gender, a new peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Violence and Genderwebsite at until November 2, 2014.

In the article "A New Perspective on Distress During the Pelvic Examination: The Role of Traumatic Hyperarousal in Women with Histories of Sexual Violence", coauthors Christina Khan, MD, PhD, Carolyn Greene, PhD, Jennifer Strauss, PhD, David Spiegel, MD, and Julie Weitlauf, PhD, Stanford University School of Medicine, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, and Stanford Cancer Institute (Palo Alto, CA), and Duke University School of Medicine (Durham, NC), identified physiologic symptoms of trauma (hyperarousal and hypervigilance) that were associated with distress among a group of female veterans with a history of sexual violence who underwent routine pelvic examination.

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"This unique article provides us with a research-based perspective of the association between sexual violence and reactivity to the pelvic examination," saysViolence and Gender Editor-in-Chief Mary Ellen O'Toole, PhD, Forensic Behavioral Consultant and Senior FBI Profiler/Criminal Investigative Analyst (ret.). "These early findings indicate that the physiologic symptoms of PTSD brought on by the assault may be associated with a greater likelihood of marked distress during the exam. This finding may be particularly meaningful to medical professionals to help them better understand the extent and long-term effects of sexual victimization, and the need for ongoing sensitivity for these patients."

About the Journal

Violence and Gender is the only peer-reviewed journal focusing on the understanding, prediction, and prevention of acts of violence. Through research papers, roundtable discussions, case studies, and other original content, the Journal critically examines biological, genetic, behavioral, psychological, racial, ethnic, and cultural factors as they relate to the gender of perpetrators of violence. Led by Editor-in-Chief Mary Ellen O'Toole, PhD, Forensic Behavioral Consultant and Senior FBI Profiler/Criminal Investigative Analyst (ret.), Violence and Gender explores the difficult issues that are vital to threat assessment and prevention of the epidemic of violence. Violence and Gender is published quarterly online with Open Access options and in print, and is the official journal of The Avielle Foundation. Tables of content and a sample issue may be viewed on the Violence and Gender website at

About the Publisher

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking and Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's 80 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available on the Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers website at

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