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Intimate Partner Violence and Completion of Post-Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examination Follow-Up Screening

Gilmore, A.K., Jaffe, A.E., Hahn, C.K., Ridings, L.E., Gill-Hopple, K., Lazenby, G.B., & Flanagan, J.C. (2021).

Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(13-14), 5991–6004.

Expanded Abstract:

Sexual assault is a serious public health problem in the United States with national studies finding that approximately 20% of women and 1.5% of men experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (Smith et al., 2017). Sexual assault causes both mental health and medical problems (including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation and behaviors, alcohol and drug use, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unintended pregnancy). A post-assault follow-up examination is an ideal time to assess coping, social support resources, as well as reduce and/or treat physical and/or mental health symptoms, yet only 28% to 36% of individuals who experienced a sexual assault complete an in-person follow-up examination post-assault (Ackerman, Sugar, Fine, & Eckert, 2006; Darnell et al., 2015; Holmes, Resnick, & Frampton, 1998).

Potential barriers to accessing care post-SAMFE (sexual assault medical forensic examination) can include characteristics of the sexual assault (including the relationship of the perpetrator to the victim or injury sustained during the assault), race/ethnicity of the victim, lack of financial resources, logistical barriers (including transportation or inability to manage multiple appointments), and the perception of not having been physically harmed during the assault (Resnick et al., 2000).

The current study examined the association between intimate partner violence victimization and sexual assault–related characteristics and engagement in post-SAMFE follow-up screening. Participants were 193 individuals who received a SAMFE and indicated at the time of SAMFE that they were interested in follow-up by the hospital. Importantly, the study found that individuals were less likely to engage in follow-up screening if the assault was perpetrated by an intimate partner. These findings suggest that other resources are needed to reach individuals who experience sexual assault perpetrated by an intimate partner due to the unique needs of that population.

(The expanded abstract is excerpted and adapted from the article cited above)