PROVIDENCE – Researchers at The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine say that certain patterns of violence in both childhood and adulthood may make a woman more likely to take significant sexual risks, such as having unprotected sex and a high number of sexual partners.
The study findings, published in a new report in the research journal, Psychology of Violence, offer new insight on the known link between exposure to violence and HIV/STD risk behavior, particularly among low-income, urban women, who may experience high rates of violence.
“Sadly, our results show that many women must cope with multiple forms of violence, and that some combinations of violent experiences put women at risk for HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, or unplanned pregnancy – not to mention the risks from the violence itself,” said lead author Jennifer Walsh of Miriam’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.
The current study included 481 women attending an urban STD clinic who were assessed for previous history of violence and current sexual risk-taking behaviors. The women were primarily African American and most were socio-economically disadvantaged. Overall, women reported high rates of exposure to violence compared to the general population. All types of violence were interrelated, with women who experienced one type of violence being more likely to experience other forms as well.
The clustering of different types of violence, Walsh said, “suggests clinicians who work with women who have experienced one type of violence should inquire about other types of violence in order to get a complete picture.”