Some statistics suggest that women are more likely than men to be the victims of intimate partner sexual assault. Date rape, sexual assault, and even stalking are highly concerning issues for women. These events can increase a woman’s risk of psychological issues, including anxiety, PTSD, depression, substance misuse, and suicide. However, many men also experience interpersonal violence. Although the rates of sexual assault may be higher for women, muggings, physical aggression, and other forms of violence can lead to significant psychological problems as well. There is a large body of research examining the negative consequences of violence against women, but less is known about how this type of event affects men. Therefore, Katherine M. Iverson of the Women’s Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD in Boston, Massachusetts recently led a study that looked at the psychological outcomes of various types of interpersonal violence in a sample of 5,692 men and women.
Iverson found that 42% of the men and 46% or the women had experienced at least one occurrence of interpersonal violence. The women had more instances of sexual assault, physical assault, coercion, and stalking. The perpetrators were very often intimate partners. For the men, physical violence, aggression, or muggings were more common, and they were more likely perpetrated by a non-intimate or non-family individual. However, regardless of the type of violence, the victims all experienced similar mental health outcomes, including increased psychological problems and increased suicidal ideation and attempts. “Although women were at higher risk for several forms of interpersonal violence, the impact of interpersonal violence on mental health outcomes did not vary by gender,” Iverson said.
These findings suggest that men who are victims of violence are just as negatively impacted as women. Clinicians should be aware of this and should take measures to identify those at risk for mental health problems as a result of violence. They should also make men and women aware of prevention and intervention strategies to help protect them from negative outcomes.
Iverson, K. M., Dick, A., McLaughlin, K. A., Smith, B. N., Bell, M. E., Gerber, M. R., Cook, N., and Mitchell, K. S. (2012). Exposure to interpersonal violence and its associations with psychiatric morbidity in a U.S. national sample: A gender comparison. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030956
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