Cancer Victim Identity for Individuals with Histories of Cancer and Childhood Sexual Abuse

Glynnis A. McDonnell, Madalina Sucala, Rachel E. Goldsmith, Guy H. Montgomery, Julie B. Schnur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Identifying as a ‘cancer victim’ has been linked to adverse psychosocial sequelae in individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer. Being a childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivor may predispose individuals towards a “victim” identity in general. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of identifying as a ‘cancer victim’ among CSA survivors who were diagnosed with cancer as adults, and to explore psychological factors associated with identification as a cancer victim. 105 adults reporting both a history of CSA and of having been diagnosed with cancer as an adult were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Variables assessed included CSA severity, abuse-related powerlessness, general mastery, and cancer victim identity. Fifty-one percent of the sample endorsed a cancer victim identity. Path analysis revealed that abuse-related powerlessness was related to decreased feelings of general mastery, which was in turn associated with cancer victim identification (x2 = .12, DF = 1, p < .73; RMSEA = .00; SRMR = .01: Bentler CFI = 1.0). From a clinical perspective, the results suggest that increasing general mastery in CSA survivors in the cancer setting may be an important mechanism for attenuating the risk for developing a cancer victim identity and, presumably, for downstream adverse psychosocial sequelae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-412
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Rational - Emotive and Cognitive - Behavior Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Identity
  • Mastery
  • Oncology
  • Sexual abuse survivors


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