Sexual assault is a pervasive problem associated with negative long- and short-term consequences related to mental health consequences, educational function, physical health, and sexual and relationship functioning. People with mental illness, particularly those with psychotic disorders, have a significantly higher risk of becoming victims of violence compared with the general population.
Three case studies of women with preexisting mental health problems who were sexually assaulted and requested a sexual assault examination are presented. These cases illustrate common mental health problems, how mental health problems can be associated with an increased risk for sexual assault, and things the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) should consider in the care and treatment of these patients.
These cases illustrate important ideas regarding the care of people who have been sexually assaulted: prioritizing safety, ethical issues related to consent, the importance of empathetic communication, and the need for SANEs to expand their knowledge to improve care of patients with mental health disorders.
Being sexually assaulted can contribute to destabilization, prolongation, and exacerbation of existing mental illness, placing patients at an increased risk for sexual assault, beginning a vicious cycle of mental illness and violence. Working effectively with the interdisciplinary team, the SANE can help break this devastating cycle of violence.