The rates of child sexual abuse and its psychological consequences as revealed by a study among Palestinian university students

Muhammad M. Haj-Yahia*, Safa Tamish

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Objectives: The study aimed to achieve the following two objectives: First, it sought to examine the rates of sexual abuse in Palestinian society at three ages (12 years or less, 12-16 years, and 16+3 years) by three perpetrators (a family member, a relative, and a stranger). Second, the study sought to assess some psychological implications of sexual victimization. Method: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 652 Palestinian undergraduate students from the Palestinian Authority. A revised version of Finkelhor's scale was utilized to measure sexual abuse, and a revised and culturally adjusted version of Derogatis and Melisaratos' Brief Symptoms Inventory was used to measure nine psychological symptoms. Results: The rates of sexual abuse among Palestinian students fall within the range of the problem in many other societies. Similar rates of abuse were found among female and male students. Moreover, sexually abused participants expressed significantly higher levels of psychoticism, hostility, anxiety, somatization, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation, depression, obsessive-compulsiveness, and psychological distress compared with their nonabused counterparts. Sexual abuse by different perpetrators at different ages significantly explained between 20.7% and 35.8% of the variance in these psychological symptoms. Conclusions: The results provide strong support for the argument that sexual abuse exists in Palestinian society, as well as for the hypothesis that sexual abuse has a strong psychological impact on victims. Furthermore, the results highlight the need for further research into different aspects and dimensions of the problem in Arab societies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1303-1327
Number of pages25
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation.


  • Arab societies
  • Palestinian society
  • Psychological symptoms
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual victimization


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