A comparison of Indigenous and non-Indigenous survivors of sexual assault and their receipt of and satisfaction with specialized health care services

PLoS One. 2017 Nov 16;12(11):e0188253. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188253. eCollection 2017.


In Canada, Indigenous women are more likely than non-Indigenous women to be survivors of sexual assault and experience sexual assaults that are more serious in terms of physical injury and other health-related consequences. Despite their related needs for care and support, there is a paucity of research to date that has examined their uptake of specialized acute health services post sexual assault. To address this gap, we explored the presentation, sociodemographic, assailant, assault, and service use characteristics of Indigenous women, as compared to non-Indigenous adult and adolescent women aged 12 and older presenting to 30 of 35 hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres in Ontario from 2009 to 2011, using bivariate analyses. Of the 948 women in our sample, 116 (12%) identified as being Indigenous. Indigenous survivors differed significantly from non-Indigenous survivors on many presentation, sociodemographic, and assault characteristics. For example, they were more likely to present to a hospital within 24 hours of being assaulted and a treatment centre serving a primarily rural population. They tended to be younger, were more likely to be living in an institutional setting, report community or group affiliations and government or community services as sources of social support, and be assaulted by a parent, guardian, or other relative. In terms of receipt of services, they were more likely to have undergone safety planning and to be referred to child protection or community agencies. They reported high levels of satisfaction with the services received, however, were less likely than non-Indigenous survivors to rate the overall care provided as excellent or good. On the whole, the results of our study suggest that Indigenous women value acute hospital-based sexual assault services. However, they experience sexual assaults in contexts different from non-Indigenous survivors. It is important for health care providers to be attuned to this so that they can appropriately respond to their unique needs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ontario
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

Janice Du Mont is supported in part by the Atkinson Foundation (http://atkinsonfoundation.ca/). This research was funded in part by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Government of Ontario, for whom a report was prepared. The views expressed in the publication are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Government of Ontario (http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/default.html). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.