Women experiencing serious mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, may be as much as five times more likely to be raped than women in the general population. According to a new study published in Psychological Medicine, 40% of women with severe mental health difficulties have experienced a rape or attempted rape.
Rape Common among Women with Mental Health Concerns
The study surveyed 303 people who sought assistance from community-based psychiatric facilities in the last year. Researchers compared responses to the British Crime Survey, and adjusted their results to control for differences in marital status, age, and other socioeconomic factors. Sixty percent of the women had schizophrenia. Forty percent of respondents had been the victim of a rape or attempted rape, and 53% of that group had attempted suicide as a result of their experience. Rape was also higher among men struggling with major mental health concerns, with 12% of surveyed men reporting experiencing a rape or attempted rape.
The same study found that 7% of women in the general population had experienced a rape or attempted rape and that 3% of that group had attempted suicide. Other studies have found different numbers, though; the National Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence Survey, for example, puts the rape rate in the general female population closer to 20%.
How Mental Health Issues Increase Victimization
People with mental health difficulties are often stigmatized as dangerous potential criminals. Severe mental conditions are much more likely to result in victimization rather than criminal behavior, though. The study also found that 49% of men and 69% of women with serious mental health issues had experienced domestic violence in adulthood. Sixty-three percent of this domestic violence was committed by family members, with intimate partners committing 35% of domestic violence acts against people with mental health issues.posttraumatic stress, which may partially explain the high rate of victimization among people with mental health issues. Because those seeking psychiatric care often face social stigma, isolation, and difficulties being heard, though, they are more vulnerable to abuse.
- 40% of women with severe mental illness are victims of rape or attempted rape. (2014, September 4). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/282004.php
- Rabin, R. C. (2011, December 14). Nearly 1 in 5 women in U.S. survey say they have been sexually assaulted. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexual-assault.html
- Teplin, L. A., PhD, McLelland, G. M., PhD, Abram, K. M., PhD, & Weiner, D. A., PhD. (2005). Crime victimization in adults with severe mental illness. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(8), 911-921. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.62.8.911
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