A community sample of adult women (N = 581) were surveyed to determine whether internalized shame mediated the relationship between severity of childhood sexual abuse and adult perceptions of intimacy in couple relationships. Characteristics of abuse, duration of abuse, frequency of abuse, age when the abuse began, and physical force used during the abuse were used to determine severity of abuse. It was predicted that 1) women sexually abused as children (N = 318) and non-abused women (N = 263) would significantly differ in their levels of internalized shame and their perceptions of intimacy; 2) severity of abuse would be inversely related to perceptions of intimacy; 3) severity of abuse would be positively related to internalized shame; and 4) internalized shame would significantly mediate the relationship between severity of abuse and perceptions of intimacy. Through a MANOVA and structural equation modeling using AMOS, the results indicated a statically significant difference between levels of shame and perceptions of intimacy in abused and non-abused women. Results also indicated as severity of abuse increases, perceptions of intimacy decrease and as severity of abuse increase, internalized shame increases. Shame was found to be a complete mediator of the relationship between severity of abuse and perceptions of intimacy. Clinical implications, study strengths and limitations, and direction for future research are discussed.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





child sexual abuse, shame, intimacy