Sexual Assault History and Use of Health and Mental Health Services

Published In: American Journal of Community Psychology, v. 16, no. 5, Oct. 1988, p. 625-644

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1987

by Jacqueline M. Golding, Judith Stein, Judith M. Siegel, M. Audrey Burnam, Susan B. Sorenson

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A history of sexual assault may be associated with increased current use of mental health and medical services because of the psychologically and physically disruptive consequences of assault. To test this hypothesis, the estimated rates of mental health and medical services use among 2560 randomly selected community residents, 343 of whom had been sexually assaulted. Sexual assault was associated with seeking both forms of care. Controls for demographic variables, psychiatric diagnosis, health status, and insurance suggested that assault increases use indirectly, through poor mental and physical health. Uninsured, assaulted respondents were especially likely to consult medical providers. Respondents assaulted during childhood were particularly likely to seek mental health care. Assault was more common among mental health service users than nonusers, and among women using medical services compared to female nonpatients. The high prevalence of assault among service users underscores the need for providers to recognize and treat sexual assault-related problems.

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