Objective: To describe the characteristics and consequences of sexual assault within intimate relationships specific to racial or ethnic group, compare the findings to a similar group of physically assaulted-only women, and measure the risk of reassault after victim contact with justice and health services.
Methods: A personal interview survey of 148 African-American, Hispanic, and white English- and Spanish-speaking abused women seeking a protection order. Extent of sexual assault, prevalence of rape-related sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, and risk of reassault after treatment were measured.
Results: Sixty-eight percent of the physically abused women reported sexual assault. Fifteen percent of the women attributed 1 or more sexually-transmitted diseases to sexual assault, and 20% of the women experienced a rape-related pregnancy. Sexually assaulted women reported significantly (P = .02) more PTSD symptoms compared with nonsexually assaulted women. One significant (P = .003) difference occurred between ethnic groups and PTSD scores. Regardless of sexual assault or no assault, Hispanic women reported significantly higher mean PTSD scores compared with African-American women (P = .005) and White women (P = .012). The risk of sexual reassault was decreased by 59% and 70% for women who contacted the police, or applied for a protection order, after the first sexual assault. Receiving medical care decreased the woman's risk of further sexual assault by 32%.
Conclusion: Sexual assault is experienced by most physically abused women and associated with significantly higher levels of PTSD compared with women physically abused only. The risk of reassault is decreased if contact is made with health or justice agencies.