Sexual assault puts victims at higher suicide, mental illness risks

| Updated: Aug 11, 2017 11:07 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 11 (ANI): A recent study has linked increased risk of suicide and mental health conditions to sexual assault victimisation. An analysis of nearly 200 independent studies involving more than 230,000 adult participants found that having been sexually assaulted is associated with significantly increased risk of anxiety, depression, suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. The analysis represents a summary of 40 years of research on the subject. "We compared people who had been sexually assaulted with those who hadn't and found a significant difference in mental health," said researcher Emily Dworkin. "We also compared people who had been sexually assaulted with people who had experienced other forms of trauma and found that the difference was still there, suggesting that sexual assault is associated with significantly increased risk for these mental health conditions as compared with other types of trauma." The association between sexual assault and mental health conditions was generally apparent across studies, regardless of how researchers defined sexual assault, Dworkin said. Some studies only examined forced assault, others included coercion or incapacitation, while others included any unwanted sexual contact. About 24 percent of participants across studies had been victims of a sexual assault, the researchers report. The analysis also found that adults who had experienced a sexual assault were at higher risk of some mental health problems than others. The risk of contemplating or attempting suicide, for example, was highest relative to other conditions. The risks of PTSD, obsessive-compulsive conditions and bipolar conditions were almost as high as those for suicidality. (See graphic.) The risk of mental disorders associated with sexual assault was consistent regardless of the age, race or gender of the participants in a study, the researchers found. The analysis also suggests that having been assaulted by a stranger or by someone using a weapon "appears to be associated with more risk of mental health consequences," Dworkin said. Not all sexual assault survivors experience mental health problems after an assault, the researchers said. The analysis suggested only that sexual assault survivors are at higher risk. The study is reported in the journal Clinical Psychology Review. (ANI)

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