Tonic immobility and childhood sexual abuse: a preliminary report evaluating the sequela of rape-induced paralysis

Behav Res Ther. 2005 Sep;43(9):1157-71. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2004.08.005.


The present study examined tonic immobility (TI) in victims of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Female undergraduates (n=39) and female psychiatric inpatients (n=41) who experienced CSA completed a series of questionnaires assessing aspects of their victimization history, psychological functioning, and TI symptoms. Over fifty-two percent of all participants reported TI in response to CSA. Episodes of CSA involving attempted or completed penile/vaginal penetration were more likely to be associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing TI, and report of TI was associated with greater current psychological impairment. The implications of these findings are discussed, and suggestions for future research are offered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Fear / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Paralysis / etiology*
  • Rape / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology