Service utilization and help seeking in a national sample of female rape victims

Psychiatr Serv. 2008 Dec;59(12):1450-7. doi: 10.1176/ps.2008.59.12.1450.


Objective: Many women with mental health problems do not seek help. Despite substantial research on predictors of help seeking, little is known about factors associated with help seeking in at-risk populations (for example, rape victims). This study examined various forms of help seeking for emotional problems in relation to key variables in a national sample of female rape victims.

Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted with a representative sample of 3,001 women (aged 18 to 76 years). All interviews were conducted between January 23, 2006, and June 26, 2006. Those endorsing a lifetime history of rape were included in the analyses presented here (N=556). Demographic characteristics, rape history, rape characteristics, psychopathology, and substance abuse were assessed. Help seeking was assessed by asking whether participants ever sought help for emotional problems, and if so, what types of services were sought (services provided through a medical professional, religious figure, or mental health professional).

Results: Help seeking was endorsed by 60% of the sample. The final multivariable model showed that ever seeking help was associated with being white (OR=2.61), being married (OR=.42), and having posttraumatic stress disorder (OR=3.45). Specific forms of help seeking revealed unique predictor sets.

Conclusions: Although lifetime history of help seeking among rape victims was high, 40% of respondents had never sought help for emotional problems. Odds of help seeking were generally increased by the presence of a mental disorder. The findings suggest that some respondents may have sought help from general medical professionals or religious figures for emotional problems related to being raped. Education and training regarding rape and associated disorders should be available to other professionals to support provision of care. Public policy should be strengthened regarding professionals' service provision and should include reimbursement for mental health services so victims do not have to pay for services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Rape / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • United States
  • Young Adult