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Psychological consequences of sexual assault among female attenders at a genitourinary medicine clinic
  1. M Matthews,
  2. J Meaden,
  3. J Petrak,
  4. L Shepstone,
  5. J Evans
  1. Department of GU Medicine (Grove Road Clinic), Norfolk and Norwich Hospital Health Care, NHS Trust, Norwich, Norfolk NR1 3SR and Norfolk Mental Health Care NHS Trust, Hellesdan Hospital, Norfolk, Norfolk
  1. Mime Matthews

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Recent studies have reported 28–35% of UK genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic attenders have been sexually assaulted.1, 2 Research in the United Kingdom on other populations has indicated psychological problems may follow sexual assault among some survivors.3 The American literature suggests the psychological consequences of assault can be construed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Intrusive thoughts, “flashbacks” and images of the assault, anxiety, and avoidance behaviour have been reported after assault both short and long term. Depressive symptoms have been reported after assault though it is unclear whether these are limited to the short term, or are longer lived. Factors influencing recovery from assault may include a history of previous assault, relationship to the assailant, and age at assault. Social support has been associated with good recovery from PTSD following a range of traumas though its relevance to sexual assault is not established.

The present study was conducted (a) to establish the prevalence of sexual assault in women attending a GUM clinic in a provincial setting in the United Kingdom and (b) to identify factors associated with psychological difficulties among female GUM clinic attenders who had been sexually assaulted.

Subjects and methods

The study was cross sectional in design and used an anonymous self report questionnaire developed by the researchers. Data were collected between October 1996 and April 1997. A sample of female attenders at the local GUM clinic was asked to complete the questionnaire after the medical consultation. The sample consisted of every fourth female attender at the clinics of the doctors involved in the study. The participants placed the completed questionnaires in a box provided. If a patient decided not to participate, a staff member placed a blank questionnaire in the box to indicate a non-participant. Informed consent was obtained and participation was voluntary. Full psychological support and treatment …

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