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Violence linked to risky sexual behavior

May 9, 2012 at 1:15 PM   |   Comments

PROVIDENCE, R.I., May 9 (UPI) -- U.S. women who either witness neighborhood crimes or are subject to abuse themselves are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, researchers say.

Lead author Jennifer Walsh of The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in Providence, R.I., said the results showed many women must cope with multiple forms of violence, and some combinations of violent experiences put women at risk for human immunodeficiency and other sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy.

Walsh said the study involved 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 socioeconomically disadvantaged. The women reported higher rates of exposure to violence compared to the general population.

The researchers identified four classes of women with different experiences of violence: 39 percent of women had low exposure to violence; 20 percent were predominantly exposed to community violence; 23 percent were predominantly exposed to childhood maltreatment and 18 percent who experienced multiple forms of violence.

The study published in the Psychology of Violence found women who reported experiencing multiple forms of violence and those who were exposed to community violence had the highest levels of sexual risk behavior, including lifetime number of sexual partners and alcohol and drug use before sex.

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