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Previous research on anger and childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is largely cross-sectional and retrospective. In this study, we prospectively examined the consequences of expressing anger among sexually abused women in contexts of either voluntarily disclosing or not disclosing a previous abuse episode. All CSA survivors in the study had documented histories of CSA. These participants and a matched, nonabused sample were asked to describe their most distressing experience while being videotaped to allow coding of anger expression. Approximately two thirds of the CSA survivors voluntarily disclosed a previous abuse experience. Participants completed measures of internalizing symptoms and externalizing symptoms at the time of disclosure and again two years later. The expression of anger was associated with better long-term adjustment (decreased internalizing and externalizing symptoms) but only among CSA survivors who had expressed anger while not disclosing an abuse experience. For CSA survivors who disclosed an abuse experience, anger expression was unrelated to long-term outcome. These findings suggest that the benefits of anger expression for CSA survivors may be context specific.
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