From the Margins to the Center: Ethnic Minority Women and the Mental Health Effects of Sexual Assault

Pepperdine University, Encino, CA 91436, USA.
Trauma Violence & Abuse (Impact Factor: 3.27). 08/2009; 10(4):330-57. DOI: 10.1177/1524838009339755
Source: PubMed


The trauma of sexual assault is heightened for many women by the interlocking experience of societal traumas such as racism, sexism, and poverty. The mental health effects of sexual assault are mediated by race and ethnicity. The investigators explore the experiences of African American, Asian American, Latina, and Native American female survivors of sexual assault. The sociohistorical context of intergenerational trauma in the lives of ethnic minorities is a part of the context for the contemporary experience of sexualized violence. Racial and ethnic dynamics related to sexual assault prevalence, mental health effects, and disclosure are examined. Literature related to cultural beliefs, community attitudes, and perceived social support in relation to sexualized violence are also reviewed. Finally, practice, research, and policy implications are discussed.

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    • "However , some research has suggested that African American college women may be more likely to experience a sexual assault involving physical force than European American women (Bryant-Davis et al., 2009; Urquiza & Goodlin- Jones, 1994). Conversely, it has been hypothesized that African American women may be less likely than European American women to experience a sexual assault that occurred when they were impaired due to substance use (Bryant-Davis et al., 2009). With regard to health risk behaviors among African American college women, they have consistently been found to engage in less hazardous alcohol use than women of other ethnic backgrounds (Clements, 1999; Randolph, Torres, Gore-Felton, Lloyd, & McGarvey, 2009; Wechsler et al., 2002). "
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    ABSTRACT: Sexual assault is associated with a number of health risk behaviors in women. It has been hypothesized that these risk behaviors, such as hazardous drinking, may represent women’s attempts to cope with psychological distress, such as symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, extant research has failed to evaluate these relationships among ethnic minority samples or identify the mechanisms responsible for this association. The current study examined sexual assault history and two health risk behaviors (hazardous drinking and engaging in sexual behavior to regulate negative affect) in a diverse sample of 1,620 college women. Depression and anxiety were examined as mediators of the relationship between sexual assault and health risk behaviors. There was evidence of moderated mediation, such that for European American women, but not for ethnic minority women, both forms of psychological distress were significant mediators of the sexual assault/hazardous drinking relationship. In contrast, among all ethnic groups, the relationship between sexual assault and both forms of psychological distress was mediated by the use of sexual behavior as an affect regulation strategy. Results support a need to evaluate the assault experiences of ethnically diverse women, as well as the impact of the assault on their postassault experiences including health risk behaviors and psychological adjustment. Additionally, results suggest that practitioners should carefully assess health risk behaviors among victims of sexual assault and be aware that there may be differences in the risk factors and motives for these behaviors among women of various ethnic backgrounds.
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    ABSTRACT: A substantial body of research documents the mental health consequences of sexual assault including, but not limited to, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance use, and suicidality. Far less attention has been given to the mental health effects of sexual assault for ethnic minority women or women living in poverty. Given African American women's increased risk for sexual assault and increased risk for persistent poverty, the current study explores the relationship between income and mental health effects within a sample of 413 African American sexual assault survivors. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that after controlling for childhood sexual abuse there were positive relationships between poverty and mental health outcomes of depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and illicit drug use. There was no significant relationship between poverty and suicidal ideation. Counseling and research implications are discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2010 · American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: This article describes the development and preliminary validation of the Race-Related Events Scale (RES). The RES is a brief screening measure used to assess exposure to stressful and potentially traumatizing experiences of race-related stress and was designed to be both consistent with standard diagnostic definitions of traumatic events and applicable to diverse ethnic groups. Its psychometric properties were assessed in an ethnically diverse sample of undergraduate students ( N = 408). The measure showed good internal consistency (α = .86) and adequate 1-month test–retest reliability ( rs = .66). Its validity was supported by findings that Whites reported significantly less race-related stress than other ethnic groups and African Americans reported significantly more race-related stress than Asian Americans. A subset of participants who reported ongoing distress following a race-related stressor ( n = 91) also completed posttraumatic stress disorder measures. Close to one-third of these participants reported a race-related stressor involving exposure to threat of injury or death to self or others and almost half reported fear, helplessness, or horror during a race-related stressor. Participants who met these DSM–IV–TR criteria for trauma exposure reported significantly more race-related stressors and more severe posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Greater exposure to race-related stressors was associated with more severe posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among ethnic minority but not White respondents. These findings suggest that the RES is a useful screening measure of potentially traumatizing race-related experiences across diverse ethnic groups. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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