Fear of sin and fear of God: Scrupulosity predicts women's daily experiences of mental contamination following sexual trauma

Alyssa C. Jones, Jordyn M. Tipsword, C. Alex Brake, Emily E. Fenlon, Thomas Adams Jr., Jesse P. McCann, Christal L. Badour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mental contamination refers to feelings of dirtiness in response to thoughts, images, or memories. Mental contamination is frequently reported after sexual trauma and is associated with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Differences in individuals’ views about morality and purity may influence the severity of mental contamination, though this has been studied primarily outside of samples assessed for trauma and/or PTSD. The present study addressed this gap by investigating scrupulosity as a prospective predictor of daily sexual trauma–related mental contamination and PTSD symptoms. Participants included 40 adult women with a history of sexual trauma and current sexual trauma–related mental contamination who completed baseline diagnostic interviews and questionnaires followed by two assessments every day for 2 weeks. The results indicate that scrupulosity was positively correlated with PTSD symptom severity and sexual trauma–related mental contamination at baseline. Scrupulosity was also a prospective predictor of increased daily sexual trauma–related mental contamination, B = 0.19, SE = 0.07, p =.010, but not daily PTSD symptoms, B = −0.10, SE =.08, p =.198. The findings indicate that scrupulosity may be an important factor in understanding recovery from sexual assault.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The writing of this manuscript was supported by the Office of Academic Affiliations, Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). C. Alex Brake received support to conduct this project from the Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women at the University of Kentucky. This research was also supported by grants from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1TR001998) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (T32DA035200) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The funding agency had no role in the study design, data collection or analysis, or preparation and submission of the manuscript. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH, the Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women, or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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