Sexual Assault and Mental Disorders in a Community Population

Published in: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, v. 56, 1988, p. 843-850

Posted on on December 31, 1987

by M. Audrey Burnam, Judith Stein, Jacqueline M. Golding, Judith M. Siegel, Susan B. Sorenson, AB Forsythe, Cynthia A. Telles

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In a cross-sectional probability survey of 3,132 household adults representing two Los Angeles communities, lifetime diagnoses of nine major mental disorders were compared between those who reported that they had been sexually assaulted at some time in their lives and those who reported no sexual assault. Sexual assault predicted later onset of major depressive episodes, substance use disorders, and anxiety disorders. Those who were assaulted in childhood were more likely than those first assaulted in adulthood to report the subsequent development of a mental disorder. Demographic characteristics of gender, age, Hispanic ethnic background, and education, however, were generally unrelated to the probability of developing any specific disorder after being assaulted. Finally, major depression, drug abuse or dependence, antisocial personality, and phobia were all associated with a higher probability of subsequent sexual assault.

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