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Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease:
Articles

Sexual and Physical Abuse of Chronically Ill Psychiatric Outpatients Compared with a Matched Sample of Medical Outpatients

COVERDALE, JOHN H. FRANZCP1; TURBOTT, SARAH H. B.Sc.1

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Abstract

Because there are few controlled studies, we aimed to determine the prevalence of sexual and physical abuse reported by psychiatric outpatients compared with matched controls. The sample consisted of 158 outpatients with major mental disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who responded to a semi-structured interview (response rate = 64.8%) and who were individually matched for gender, age, and ethnicity with 158 outpatients who had never been treated for psychiatric illness. They answered questions about whether and when they had ever been sexually or physically abused, and about the type and circumstances of abuse. Abuse was more common during adulthood (16 years or older); 45 psychiatric patients (28.5%) were sexually abused and 43 (27.3%) were physically abused. Compared with the controls, patients were significantly more likely to report a history of sexual or physical abuse during adulthood (χ2 = 5.15, df = 1, p = .02; χ2 = 4.09, df = 1, p = .04 respectively). During adulthood, female patients were significantly more likely to be sexually and physically abused than male patients, and those sexually abused were significantly more likely to report a history of sexual abuse during childhood. However, patients were not significantly more likely to report a history of sexual or physical abuse during childhood compared with the controls. These findings demonstrate that psychiatrically ill patients are vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse during adulthood and underscore psychiatrists' responsibility to routinely inquire about abuse experiences.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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