Health Professional Digest Volume 1, Issue 14
The HHS Office on Women’s Health (OWH) knows how important it is for you to have the latest information on prevention and treatment to help you best serve your patients.Each month, we will share a curated list of tools and resources that you can immediately put into practice.
Sexual Assault Awareness — News You Can Use
Sexual violence has a significant and long-term physical and mental health impact on victims. Understanding the populations at risk is critical to providing patients the support they need.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report of data from 2010–2012 found that 1 in 3 women in the U.S. has experienced some type of sexual violence, which is defined as “numerous violent behaviors, including contact (e.g., forced penetration, unwanted fondling) and non-contact (e.g., verbal harassment) acts.” There are nuances to sexual violence reporting, however, as indicated by a more current report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) which found that 1.9 per 1,000 women experienced rape/sexual assault, based on a 2016 study. The BJS acknowledges that the measurement of rape and sexual assault presents challenges for many reasons, including victims’ reluctance to share their experience and inconsistent definitions of rape and sexual assault.
While sexual violence is an important public health concern for everyone, women and racial and ethnic minorities are most affected. In this issue, we highlight just three of the groups facing unique challenges when it comes to sexual violence: women veterans, Native American women, and undergraduate women.
Military Sexual Trauma
According to recent data, about 1 in 4 women veterans has experienced military sexual trauma (MST). MST is the term that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the veteran was in the military. To learn more about MST, programs, and services that support MST victims, and community provider resources, visit the VA’s Military Sexual Trauma webpage and Sexual Assault Against Females webpage.
Sexual Assault Care in Tribal Communities
More than 45 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native women have experienced some type of contact sexual violence (e.g., forced penetration, unwanted fondling) during their lifetime. For many tribal communities, it can be difficult to develop and sustain culturally appropriate services and resources for Native American women who have been sexually assaulted. If you are a clinician that serves Native American women, consider participating in Tribal Forensic Healthcare’s sexual assault web-based training to ensure you are providing appropriate care for your patients.
Sexual Assault on College Campuses
The BJS Campus Climate Survey Validation Study recently found the prevalence rate for completed sexual assault experienced by undergraduate females was a little over 10 percent. Prevention efforts and increased awareness of sexual assault are key to ultimately decreasing rates of sexual violence on college campuses. If you serve college women as a physician or community health provider, or through your involvement with a student health center, there are several ways you can support patients who have experienced or may experience sexual assault:
For Your Patients
Encourage your patients to engage with the following resources on sexual assault:
- Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing’s Danger Assessment Instrument
- It’s On Us’ Bystander Intervention Tips
- OWH’s Relationships, Safety, and Violence fact sheet
For more updates on women’s health, follow OWH on Twitter.