Staying Alive and Fighting Back

Mental disorders are more likely to develop in women who were attacked

(RxWiki News) Rape, sexual assault, and violence can happen to anyone, especially women. The aftermath of being attacked can be detrimental to the victim's health - more specifically mental health.

Violence among women is not uncommon in America. Around 17 percent of all women report rape or attempted rape and one fifth of women report intimate partner violence, stalking or both. Researchers found that this kind of violence can have devastating effects on women's mental health.

"If you've experienced rape or assault, seek help!"

Susan Rees, Ph.D., from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, New South Wales, and team assessed the damage gender-based violence (GBV) had on mental health. GBV includes intimate partner physical violence, rape, sexual assault and stalking.

The researchers gathered data from the Australian National Mental Health and Well-being Survey in 2007. The study included 4,451 women between the ages of 16 and 85.

There were a total of 1,218 participants who reported experiencing at least one form of GBV - more than a fourth of all participants. The more types of GBV women experienced, the higher the rates were for mental disorders and other problems. Women who experienced three or four types of GBV had a 77.3 percent chance of developing anxiety disorder, 52.5 percent for mood disorder, 47.1 percent for substance use disorder, 56.2 percent for any mental disorder and 34.7 percent for suicide attempts.

These findings suggest that women who have experienced GBV are more likely to have more severe mental health problems, so it's important that experts are aware of this problem, Rees says. Treatment and prevention measures should be equipped and informed to help women in need, Rees adds.

The research is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Review Date: 
August 4, 2011