This study compared the effects of intimate partner and nonpartner sexual assault on the mental health functioning of a sample of low-income, ethnically diverse community women.
Sexual assault by a current partner was a significantly stronger predictor of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), stress, and dissociation than was sexual assault by a former partner or a non-intimate partner. Non-intimate partner sexual assault significantly predicted PTSD, but only for African-American women. The findings suggest that the victim-perpetrator relationship is an important factor when considering the impact of sexual assault and that sexual assaults perpetrated by intimate partners may be particularly traumatic for victims. The findings suggest that mental health practitioners should consider the effects of sexual assault as a possible contributing factor to psychological symptoms. Batterer treatment programs should focus on the negative impact of sexual assault in addition to other forms of violence. Data were drawn from the first wave of a longitudinal research study on the health outcomes of women. Participants were 835 community women who were between the ages of 20 and 49 years, were in heterosexual relationships for at least 1 year, and who had a household income less than twice the poverty level. Face-to-face, structured interviews focused on experiences of sexual assault, current life stress, and mental health symptoms. Data were analyzed using chi-square calculations and regression models. Future research should focus on identifying the full range of psychological symptoms related to partner sexual assault. Tables, note, references
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