Sexual Health news - Sexual Health and Behavior

Women with history of abuse are less likely to practice safer sex

Studies have shown that women who have experienced or witnessed some kind of violence in their lives are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, such as engaging in unprotected sex or having multiple sexual partners

A team of researchers at the Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in Rhode Island have examined the patterns of abuse that tend to influence this kind of behavior in women.

They discovered that multiple types of violence – from simply witnessing fights in their neighborhood to being the direct subjects of abuse – can lead to a decreased likelihood of practicing safer sex.

The study authors examined the experiences of 481 women who attended an inner city sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing clinic, most of whom were African American and low-income.  A total of 39 percent said they had a low exposure to violence, 20 percent reported that they often witnessed assault in their neighborhoods, 23 percent said they were the subjects of childhood abuse and 10 percent admitted they had experienced multiple types of violence during their lives.

"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 STDs or unplanned pregnancy – not to mention the risks from the violence itself," said lead author Jennifer Walsh, Ph.D.

Results of this study suggest that clinicians may be able to more easily identify women who are at risk of contracting an STD, as well as those who may be dealing with the effects of violence in their homes or neighborhoods.