Background Sexual violence (SV) is common but under-reported in the UK. Victims of SV may be more likely to attend genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics but there are no recent urban data.
Aims To determine the prevalence and correlates of SV in female GUM attendees. To assess whether routine enquiry on SV is warranted and to gauge if specific SV resources are needed in GUM.
Methods Questionnaire-based survey offered to all women attending our two urban walk-in GUM clinics. Participants self-completed anonymised proformas about any experiences of SV using a broad definition of SV. Demographic, clinical and behavioural data were also collected.
Results Analysis of the initial 164 surveys showed a median age of 27 (IQR 23–31). Ethnicity was typical of the clinics' populations: 62% UK born; 40% White British, 21% White other, 16% Black British, 8% Black African and 7% Black Caribbean. When asked about a history of SV ever, 17% responded yes; in 36% of these women SV had happened more than once. Median age at the time of SV was 19 years (range 6–40); 22/164 (13%) described the SV as rape/sexual assault and in two women this was in the last year. Only two women described their assailant as a stranger; one confirmed her SV was gang-related. Additional women responded to queries on forced oral sex 5%, forced touching 7%, forced sex without a condom 11%. Of 32 women who told someone it included a health professional in only 28% and the police in 25%. 78% of all participants agreed it was helpful to ask routinely about SV and 87% felt that a SV worker was needed in the clinic; four women indicated that their reason for attending GUM today was SV-related. Qualitative comments were mostly positive and accepting of SV enquiry, though several women expressed negative comments about the difficult emotions it had evoked.
Conclusions Women attending GUM have a high prevalence of SV. Further study is warranted within GUM settings to establish if routine enquiry and SV service provision should be core business.