Post-traumatic stress disorder and related factors among female victims of sexual assault required to attend a University Hospital in Turkey: A cross-sectional cohort study

Crim Behav Ment Health. 2020 Jun;30(2-3):79-94. doi: 10.1002/cbm.2145. Epub 2020 Apr 20.


Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common consequences of sexual assault, but it is not invariable.

Aim: Our aim was to investigate pre-, peri- and post-traumatic factors associated with post-traumatic stress disorder among adult women who had been sexually assaulted.

Methods: All women attending a specialist university clinic for victims of sexual assault referred by the courts for a mental health assessment were invited to participate. At the time, the Turkish penal code required such referral (the year up to September 2015). Consenting women completed a sociodemographic information form, the Traumatic Stress Symptom Checklist, the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, the Short Form-36 reflecting perceived quality of life, the Beck Depression Scale and the Beck Anxiety Scale.

Results: Sixty women were eligible and agreed to participate. Two-thirds of them (41, 68%) reported features of PTSD. In bivariate analyses, the women with PTSD also rated themselves as having a wide range of health and social disadvantages. Self-perceived poverty of social support and having suicidal thoughts were independently associated with PTSD.

Conclusions: Although the rate of mental health and social problems among the women with PTSD were high, less than a third had actually sought help for their difficulties. While a requirement in the penal code that such women should have a psychiatric assessment seems over-intrusive and has since been dropped, our findings suggest that more efforts should be made to ensure that such women have help available if they want it.

Keywords: post-traumatic stress disorder; sexual assault; women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Rape / psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Turkey / epidemiology