Fragmentation of the self: Characteristics of sexual assault and implications in self-drawing

Limor Goldner, Limor Frid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study explored the extent to which sexually assaulted survivors' self-drawings can serve as an efficient tool to assess their mental states and psychopathology as characterized in the DAP-SPED (Naglieri et al., 1991, 1992). The sample was composed of 83 SA Israeli adult survivors. Hypothesis 1 (H1) predicted frequent distortions and omission of body parts, a disconnection between body parts, and a poor-quality line. Hypothesis 2 (H2) predicted a positive correlation between the number of indicators in the women's self-drawings and their levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms. Hypothesis 3 (H3) predicted a negative association between the number of indicators and women's levels of post-traumatic growth. Analysis of the drawings confirmed H1. The drawings lacked integration, tended to have a shadow around the body contour and/or were off-center. The figures were missing the torso, hands or feet with emphasized eyes or necks and chin. H2 and H3 were partially confirmed in that women whose drawings were characterized by omissions, cut-offs, and detached body parts scored higher on post-traumatic stress symptoms and evidenced a lower level of post-traumatic growth. Phenomenologically, the drawings were categorized into six groups (adapted, dramatic, strange, childish, unease, loneliness, and sad). Women in the dramatic drawings group had higher post-traumatic stress symptoms and post-traumatic growth. Women in the unease drawings group had the most elevated post-traumatic stress symptoms. Since SA survivors often turn to therapy without revealing the assault, draw oneself can provide the clinician with important insights into the physical and emotional aspects of the client.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101877
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Art-based assessment
  • Post-traumatic growth
  • Post-traumatic stress symptoms
  • Self-drawings
  • Sexual assault

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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