May 14, 2012
A new study finds that women who witness crimes in their neighborhood or are victims of abuse are more likely to participate in risky sexual behavior.
Jennifer Walsh, of the Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in Providence, R.I., and colleagues surveyed 481 women presenting at an urban STD clinic. Most participants were African-American and disadvantaged socioeconomically. The women were assessed for a previous history of violence as well as current sexual risk behaviors.
Compared to the general population, the women in the study reported higher rates of exposure to violence. The team identified four groups of women with differing experiences of violence: 39 percent reported low exposure to violence; 20 percent were chiefly exposed to community violence; 23 were mainly exposed to childhood mistreatment; and 18 percent experienced multiple forms of violence.
The authors found that those women who reported experiencing multiple forms of violence and those who said they were exposed to violence in the community had the highest levels of exposure to sexual risk, including drug and alcohol use before sex, and lifetime number of partners.
[PNU editor's note: The study, "Exposure to Different Types of Violence and Subsequent Sexual Risk Behavior Among Female Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic Patients: A Latent Class Analysis," was published in Psychology of Violence (03.19.12;doi:10.1037/a0027716).]