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National Empowerment Center - Articles

Facts About Mental Health & Physical and Sexual Abuses

Provided by the Center for Mental Health Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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  • 50% to 70% of women hospitalized for psychiatric reasons have experienced physical or sexual abuse. (Briere and Runtz, 1990)

  • More than 1 in 4 women (27%) and 1 in 6 men (16%) experienced sexual abuse as children. (National Victim Center and the Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center, 1992).

  • Current estimates on the rate of child physical abuse range from 3 to 10 children per 100 children under the age of 18. (Report of the Council on Scientific Affairs, AMA, 1993)

  • Adult survivors of physical or sexual abuse are more likely to report depression and to have been hospitalized for depression than are other types of victims or nonvictims. A high incidence of self-destructive behavior, both suicidal ideation and deliberate self-harm (e.g,. cutting, burning, or otherwise inflicting self-injury) also has been found in adult survivors of child sexual assault, distinguishing them even within clinical populations. (Council on Scientific Affairs, AMA, 1992)

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder is common among inpatients with a childhood sexual abuse history. (Jacobson and Herald, 1990)

  • Physical and sexual abuse raises the risk for severe health problems. Younger girls who are physically or sexually abused often run away from home, drop out of school, engage in early sexual activity, and risk early pregnancy, HIV infection and homelessness. (Reed, 1991)

  • More than 4 in every 10 women reported that they had been abused at least once before their current admission to prison. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1991)

  • An estimated 34% of female inmates reported being physically abused and 34% reported being sexually abused. About 32% said the abuse had occurred before they were 18 years old, and 24% said they had been abused since they were 18. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1991)

  • Especially prominent for sexual abuse survivors are post-traumatic stress disorder-related flashbacks - sudden, intrusive sensory memories, often including visual, auditory, olfactory, and/or tactile sensation reminiscent of the sexual assault. (Briere and Runtz, 1993)

  • For both men and women, a close relative, an immediate family member or a family friend were most often the sexual abuser. However, men are twice as likely as women to say their abuser was a stranger. (Commonwealth Fund, 1993)

  • One survey showed that an overwhelming majority of women who were physically abused-92%-did not discuss these incidents with their physicians, 57% did not discuss these incidents with anyone. (Commonwealth Fund, 1993)