Rape Common among Women With Serious Mental Health Issues

Woman stands alone on a dockWomen 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.

Other studies have also found that mental health issues increase the likelihood of being a crime victim. One study found that adults with severe mental health issues were 11 times more likely to be crime victims than people in the general population. Violence can lead to mental health concerns such as 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.


  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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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  • shaw


    September 4th, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    This has to be because someone somewhere sense the vulnerability in these women and they rapists will be more likely to do something like this if they see that the female is in a vulnerable state and could be unable to fight back.

    You hate to think that there are people out there like this who are simply preying on the weak but I know for a fact that even guys in college will do this to girls who are not having issues with mental illness, they are just looking for an easy target. I think that this is how someone in a position of power will look at a woman with mental health issues, someone that they can easily overcome and take advantage of.

  • Corrinne


    September 5th, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    Wow those differnces in the numbers among those with mental illness and the ones who don’t are startling really.

  • Sierra


    September 7th, 2014 at 5:29 AM

    I know that rape is never about sex, just about anger and having control over another person, but I have always wondered how this would make a man feel like more of a man to do something so horriffic like this. Wouldn’t you think that the thought of having to force sex upon another human would actually make you feel so small, like not one other eprson would want to be with you and that this is the only way that you can get it? I know, I am not in their headsthank goodness so I am not sure what kind of reasoning goes on in there but you would think that if they really thought about it then they would realize how pathetic they really are for having to force someone to do this, knowing that this person would Never in a million years be with them unless you are doing something terrible to them.

  • Xenon


    September 8th, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    Dang…and they call /us/ violent. Who’s the violent one here?

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