Chronic Diseases, Health Conditions, and Other Impacts Associated With Rape Victimization of U.S. Women

J Interpers Violence. 2020 Jan 23;886260519900335. doi: 10.1177/0886260519900335. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Sexual violence (SV) is an urgent public health issue that is common and has lifelong effects on health. Previous scholarship has documented the association of SV victimization with numerous health conditions and impacts, but much of this past work has focused on negative health outcomes associated with child sexual abuse using non-nationally representative samples. This article used a nationally representative female sample to examine health conditions associated with any lifetime experience of rape. We also examined injury and health outcomes (e.g., fear, injury) resulting from any violence by a perpetrator of rape. About two in five rape victims (39.1%) reported injury (e.g., bruises, vaginal tears), and 12.3% reported a sexually transmitted disease as a result of the rape victimization. Approximately 71.3% of rape victims (an estimated 16.4 million women) experienced some form of impact as a result of violence by a rape perpetrator. Among U.S. women, the adjusted odds of experiencing asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, activity limitations, poor physical or mental health, and use of special equipment (e.g., wheelchair) were significantly higher for lifetime rape victims compared with non-victims. This article fills gaps in our understanding of health impacts associated with rape of women and is the only nationally representative source of this information to our knowledge. Primary prevention efforts in youth that seek to prevent the first occurrence of rape and other forms of SV may be most effective for reducing the long-term health effects of this violence.

Keywords: PTSD; anything related to sexual assault; mental health and violence; violence exposure.