Quick Study: For Victims of Sexual Assault, Symptoms May Be Overlooked

Depression may not be the only issue women face following a sexual assault.

Women who are victims of sexual assault may suffer from a number of symptoms besides depression, a study finds. (Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images)

Oct 9, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

The study: Women who are victims of sexual assault have serious psychological and social issues that may go undiagnosed. A study recently published online in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior finds that several aspects of their lives are affected, such as self-esteem and committed relationships.

The study subjects were college-age women; 49 had been raped and 91 were victims of attempted rape. They answered questions that covered 13 health, psychological and social topics, including work and social life, their desire to have sex, how often they had sex, and family relationships. Although both groups reported negative effects in all categories, women who were raped were substantially more affected in 11 out of the 13.

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What we already know: Previous studies on female victims of sexual assault frequently report symptoms such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Perhaps because these symptoms are so debilitating,” the authors wrote, “much research on the consequences of rape has concentrated on these clinical outcomes.” Fewer studies, they add, have looked outside those three areas to see how else women may be affected.

What this means for you: Victims of sexual assault shouldn’t disregard the aspects of their life that have been affected by this crime. Though the insight researchers revealed was disturbing, lead author Carin Perilloux said there was a positive outcome: "Women often show exceptional resilience," she said in a news release. "With support and assistance, many rape victims may be able to regain normalcy in some of the domains of their lives affected by the victimization."

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