This research examined the histories of physical and sexual victimization reported by incarcerated and nonincarcerated women, with attention to the survival strategies they used at various points in their lives.
Ninety-eight percent of the women interviewed (n=423) reported experiencing some type of psychological, physical, and/or sexual abuse during their lifetimes. Rates of physical and sexual victimization as children and adults were high across sample populations, with the highest rates among incarcerated women. Generally, the sample reported good physical and mental health. Over a quarter of the women reported having a drug problem (28 percent); only 19 percent reported having an alcohol problem. A small proportion of the women reported attempting suicide in the past 12 months, with the highest rate being among women in prison. Having experienced physical abuse in childhood was predictive of current physical health, mental health, depression, and reports of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It was not predictive of reports of drug or alcohol problems, suicide attempts, or being currently incarcerated. The experience of childhood sexual abuse was also predictive of adult outcomes, including physical health, mental health, depression, PTSD, alcohol problems, drug problems, and being incarcerated. Significant mediating factors that predicted outcomes in adulthood were social support, self-efficacy, and the use of adaptive and maladaptive coping skills. The research sample was drawn from five communities in one Midwestern State: three urban communities, one rural community, and the only women's correctional facility in the State. Descriptive parametric and nonparametric analyses were used to determine the extent to which the women had been victims of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and child maltreatment. Linear multiple regression analyses were used to predict variables that included victimization and disclosure experiences, mediating factors, service use, and adult outcome. Extensive tables and figures and appended interview instrument and other methodological material
Date Published: November 1, 2005
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