The statistics on the prevalence of sexual abuse are varied and alarmingly large. Rojas and Kinder (2007) showed that a little less than 30% of males stated that they had been sexually abused while a little over 30% of females reported being sexually abused. The purpose of this study is to obtain additional information regarding cognitive-affective processing in individuals who have had an unwanted sexual experience. The current study is a pilot study that questions whether a difference in physiological response, as measured by skin conductance and heart rate, will occur in people who have had an unwanted sexual experience while viewing positive and/or negative interpersonal pictures. A total of 140 participants ranging in ages from 18-66 years were recruited from Cal State San Bernardino's subject pool. The mean age was 25.23, of these participants, 125 were female and 15 were male. Multiple repeated measures ANOVA's mixed design were conducted in order to assess whether having had an unwanted sexual experience and/or whether gender could affect one's physiological responses when viewing emotionally laden pictures depicting interpersonal touch. This study showed that an innate physiological trauma did not exist in individuals who had experienced sexual abuse in the past. In fact, they experienced similar physiological responses, as those who did not report suffering from any type of unwanted sexual touch, as measured through skin conductance and heart rate. Gender did not have a significant effect but this could be due to the small sample size of males. The study was able to replicate other findings, which showed that valence has a significant effect on skin conductance. A new finding was that a significant interaction exists between pictures depicting interpersonal touch and valence of the picture across skin conductance.

LLU Discipline

General Psychology




School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Haerich, Paul E.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded

January 2011

Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Sex Offenses

Subject - Local

Sexual Abuse; Cognitive-affective processing; Unwanted Sexual Experience; Skin conductance



Page Count

65 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

Included in

Psychology Commons