To evaluate the links between gastrointestinal disorders and sexual abuse, we asked 344 patients consulting in a specialized tertiary care university hospital or a gastroenterologist in private practice, if they had been sexually abused. Forty per cent of patients suffering from lower functional digestive disorder gave a history of having been victims of sexual abuse in contrast to only 10% of patients with organic diseases (P < 0.0003). The prevalence was similar in private practice and in the university hospital. Abused patients were more likely to complain of constipation (P < 0.03) and diarrhoea (P < 0.04). Anismus was more frequent in patients who had been sexually abused (P < 0.02). The prevalence of abuse was four times greater in patients with lower than with upper functional motor disorders of the gastrointestinal tract (P < 0.002). This study confirms the large prevalence of a past history of sexual abuse among patients consulting for gastrointestinal tract functional disorder, and this whatever the kind of recruitment may be. It shows the association to be much stronger in patients who have a lower rather than an upper gastrointestinal dysfunction, the major complaint of abused patients being constipation and diarrhoea.