Unexpected changes in urinary catecholamines and vanillylmandelic acid following rape assault

Norman Ende, Sheldon B. Gertner, Barbara Socha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Although psychological changes are recognized to occur in rape assault survivors there is no information on the biochemical changes in these victims. This study compares urinary catecholamines and metabolites in 17 rape victims to two female control groups (one of which engaged in normal sexual intercourse and the other did not). We found, in the rape victims, unexpected changes in the excretion pattern of catecholamines and metabolites as compared to the various control groups. The most significant difference was the dramatic increase in urinary conjugated dopamine (P < 0.01) in the rape victims which remained elevated for over 24 hr. Urinary vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) rose significantly in rape assault victims when compared to the normal control group. The VMA levels in rape victims were significantly lower, however, than in the women who had undergone (normal) sexual intercourse (P < 0.01). Urinary free epinephrine showed a marked decline and remained depressed for over 24 hr in the rape assault victims (P < 0.01) compared to normal controls. Some possible reasons for these patterns in catecholamines and metabolite excretion are suggested. These changes may be of importance in the poststress syndrome that occurs following the rape assault. In summary, a different profile of catecholamine and metabolite excretion patterns was found in rape compared to normal sexual intercourse. The enhanced dopamine excretion is contrary to the expected change of enhanced epinephrine secretion in severe stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-70
Number of pages9
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1990


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this