Traumatic symptoms are common for survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and such symptoms are often compounded by the presence of shame. While much is known regarding the negative impact of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on CSA survivors, less is known regarding the relationship between PTSD and shame and little to no research has investigated the impact of PTSD on intimacy mediated by shame for CSA survivors. The current study sought to fill this gap in the literature by exploring this phenomenon. Data was randomly collected from households in the following cities: Chicago, IL; New York City, NY; Salt Lake City, UT; and San Francisco, as well as the Utah State Penitentiary. Those who had completed the Trauma Symptom Checklist-33 (TSC-33), the Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationships scale (PAIR), and Internalized Shame Scale (ISS) were included in the dataset. Exclusionary criteria included females under 18, males, those who had not experienced sexual abuse, and those who had not completed the requisite scales. In all, 318 participants met criteria for the current study. The current study hypothesized that: (1) trauma symptoms would be negatively related to intimacy, (2) internalized shame will be negatively related to intimacy, and (3) internalized shame will significantly mediate the relationship between trauma symptoms and intimacy. The hypotheses were analyzed utilizing Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) and the associated AMOS 19 and MPlus software. Results found that trauma symptoms negatively impact intimacy and that shame has a mediating impact on this phenomenon. Further, shame was found to be a full mediator. While results of the current study illustrate the mediating role of shame on trauma symptoms, this mediation is within a relational rather than an individual context. Consequently, the current study fills an important gap in the literature regarding the interplay between shame and trauma for CSA victims within a relational context. Results of the current study give direction regarding the treatment of trauma and point to the importance of addressing shame in survivors of sexual abuse.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





PTSD, shame, sexual abuse, intimacy, mediation