Study objective: To describe the prevalence and correlates of sexual assault among adolescent females.
Design: A cross-sectional study.
Setting: A university family planning clinic in south Texas.
Participants: Female adolescents <18 years who initiated care at a university family planning clinic in south Texas between June 28, 1992, and April 28, 1994. The adolescents' lifetime sexual assault experience.
Main outcome measures: Of the 791 adolescents interviewed, 167 (21%) reported a history of sexual assault. Sexual assault was found to be highly associated with multiple risky behaviors and depressive symptoms. Among assaulted adolescents, nonsexual risk behaviors (e.g., substance use) were more common among those who also experienced physical assault than among those who did not. Sexual risk behaviors (e.g., earlier age at sexual debut) and related gynecological infections (e.g., STDs) were more prevalent among women reporting forced sexual intercourse than in those who reported molestation only. Furthermore, adolescents assaulted by a stranger had participated in the most risky behaviors and reported the worst health status, while those assaulted by a date/acquaintance reported higher rates of inconsistent condom use and gynecological infections but lower rates of substance use and depressive symptoms than those assaulted by a family member.
Conclusion: A deeper understanding of the links between the characteristics of assault, risk behaviors, and health conditions may provide opportunities to design more individualized interventions.