80% of young women were found to have a mental health disorder and 55% had two or more mental health disorders four to five months after sexual assault, according to a study led by University College London and The Havens, London’s specialist sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) run by King’s.
For the study, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, researchers recruited 134 females, aged between 13 and 17 years between April 2013 and April 2015, interviewing them shortly after sexual assault and four to five months later. Post-traumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders and depression were the most common disorders seen.
Dr Sophie Khadr, Consultant in Sexual Health at the Havens who conducted the research said, “Although poverty and social vulnerability are well-recognised risk factors for sexual assault, few studies have examined this among adolescents, or looked at the impact of vulnerability on mental health outcomes following sexual assault,” said
“The study findings emphasise the 'double disadvantage' of young women who experience sexual assault. Their social vulnerability places them at higher risk of assault, with one in 12 reporting a further assault within four to five months.”
“Our study found that many of these vulnerability factors are also risk factors for mental health disorders following assault. Personal characteristics such as a history of self-harm, mental health help or social services involvement were more important than the type of assault as predictors of a later mental health diagnosis.”
The researchers suggest that more attention must be paid to the pre-existing vulnerability and later mental health needs of young people who have been assaulted – by health services, the criminal justice system and among the general public.
Help and support is available to anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted. For more information visit www.thehavens.org.uk.