Trauma-related Symptoms after Violent Crime: The Role of Risk Factors before, during and Eight Months after Victimization

Olof Semb1, *, Mikael Henningsson2, Pe Fransson2, Elisabet Sundbom1
1 Department of Clinical Sciences: Division of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Umeå University Hospital, Sweden
2 Department of Psychology, Umeå University, Sweden

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© 2009 Semb et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Clinical Sciences: Division of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Umeå University Hospital, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden; Tel: +46 907856493; Fax: +46 90135324; E-mail:


The aim of this study was to explore the prevalence of current suffering and the role of peritraumatic emotions and other risk factors for development of post-traumatic and general symptoms eight months post crime. Questionnaires assessing trauma-specific symptoms (HTQ) and general psychiatric symptoms (SCL-90) was used along with a semistructured interview covering subjective reactions of 41 civilian victims of interpersonal crime. Victims proved to still be suffering, in varying degrees, from post-traumatic symptoms and other psychological distress. Females reported more trauma-specific symptoms and other comorbid conditions than males. Prior trauma, adverse childhood, being female, previous psychiatric history, and unemployment were all associated with more distress. Peritraumatic reactions (especially secondary emotions following cognitive appraisals after the event) predicted the three core PTSD symptoms and comorbid conditions. Apart from the PTSD symptoms, an assessment of background factors, general psychiatric symptoms, peritraumatic emotions and their cognitive associated scripts in the initial post-trauma period could be helpful in identifying victims who are at risk of developing trauma symptoms.

Keywords: Crime victims, risk factors, PTSD, psychiatric symptoms, peritraumatic emotions.