• Journal Article

Examining the Associations Between Sex Trade Involvement, Rape, and Symptomatology of Sexual Abuse Trauma

Citation

Lutnick, A., Harris, J., Lorvick, J., Cheng, H., Wenger, L., Bourgois, P., & Kral, A. (2015). Examining the Associations Between Sex Trade Involvement, Rape, and Symptomatology of Sexual Abuse Trauma. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30(11), 1847-1863. DOI: 10.1177/0886260514549051

Abstract

The high prevalence of rape and sexual trauma symptomatology among women involved in street-based sex trades is well-established. Because prior research has lacked appropriate, non-sex trade involved comparison groups, it is unknown whether differences exist among similarly situated women who do and do not trade sex. This article explores experiences of childhood and adult rape and symptomatology of sexual abuse trauma among a community-based sample of 322 women who use methamphetamine in San Francisco, California, 61% of whom were involved in the sex trade. Study participants were recruited via respondent-driven sampling and eligible if they were cisgender women, aged 18 or older, current methamphetamine users, and sexually active with at least one cisgender man in the past 6 months. The dependent variable was sexual abuse trauma symptomatology, as measured by the Sexual Abuse Trauma Index (SATI) subscale of the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40 (TSC-40), and the explanatory variable was sex trade involvement. Potential covariates were age, current homelessness, methamphetamine dependence, and experiences of childhood and adult rape. Sixty-one percent of participants had a SATI subscale score suggestive of sexual abuse trauma. The overall prevalence of rape in childhood and adulthood was 52% and 73%, respectively. In bivariate analysis, sex trade involvement and all of the potential covariates except for homelessness and age were associated with a SATI score suggestive of sexual abuse trauma. In multivariate models controlling for significant covariates, there was no longer a statistically significant association between sex trade involvement or childhood rape and an elevated SATI score. Elevated levels of psychological dependence on methamphetamine and experiences of rape as an adult were still associated with a high SATI score. These findings highlight that urban poor women, regardless of sex trade involvement, suffer high levels of rape and related trauma symptomatology