Barriers to Accessing Mental Health Care After a Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examination

J Forensic Nurs. 2021 Apr-Jun;17(2):84-92. doi: 10.1097/JFN.0000000000000321.


Background: Research indicates low rates of accessing mental health care following sexual assault; however, barriers associated with accessing care are not well understood.

Design: Participants (N = 37) were recruited from a local hospital following a sexual assault medical forensic examination (SAMFE). Hierarchical linear regressions models examined the effects of age, racial identity, student status, insurance status, relationship to perpetrator, time since assault, problematic drinking, and posttraumatic stress symptoms on (a) barriers to accessing care and (b) the likelihood of seeking mental health treatment at no charge.

Results: Lack of insurance was associated with more barriers to accessing mental health care and a higher likelihood of seeking post-SAMFE care at no charge. Posttraumatic stress symptoms were associated with more barriers to accessing care (p = 0.038). Identifying as a student (p = 0.026) and engaging in problematic drinking (p = 0.047) were associated with a lower likelihood of seeking post-SAMFE care, whereas increased symptoms of posttraumatic stress were associated with a greater likelihood of seeking post-SAMFE care (p = 0.007).

Conclusions: Providing post-SAMFE care, irrespective of insurance, may be a needed first step in addressing the mental health needs of individuals with recent sexual assault. Secondary prevention programs targeted toward alcohol misuse may also be warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Community Mental Health Services*
  • Crime Victims*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Help-Seeking Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications
  • Students