270084 Are women involved in sex trades more likely to have symptoms of sexual abuse trauma?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Alexandra Lutnick, PhD(c) , Urban Health Program; School of Social Welfare, RTI International; University of California Berkeley, San Francisco, CA
Jennie Harris, MPH , Urban Health Program, RTI International, Research Traingle Park, NC
Jennifer Lorvick, DrPH , Urban Health Program, RTI International, San Francisco, CA
Helen Cheng , Urban Health Program, RTI International, San Francisco, CA
Lynn Wenger, MSW, MPH , Urban Health Program, RTI International, San Francisco, CA
Phillipe Bourgois, PhD , Richard Perry University Professor of Anthropology & Family and Community Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Alex H. Kral, PhD , Urban Health Program, RTI International, San Francisco, CA
Background: Studies finding that women involved in sex trades have high levels of sexual abuse trauma often lack appropriate comparison groups. We assessed sexual abuse trauma among a sample of urban women who use methamphetamine. We hypothesized that after controlling for other factors, women who did and did not trade sex would have similar odds of sexual abuse trauma.

Methods: Using respondent-driven sampling, 322 participants were interviewed in San Francisco. Sex trade involvement was defined as the exchange of vaginal, anal, or oral sex for some type of payment within the past 6 months. The Sexual Abuse Trauma Index sub-scale of the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40 assessed current levels of symptomatology of trauma from sexual abuse, with scores > 4 indicative of trauma.

Results: Over half the sample (61%) traded sex in the past 6 months. The majority (80%) had scores indicative of trauma from sexual abuse (85% among those who traded sex and 73% among those who didn't; p=0.01). In multivariate logistical analysis, sex trade involvement was not associated with sexual abuse trauma (adjusted odds ratio=1.86; 95% C.I.=0.94, 3.68) once race, homelessness, receiving outpatient mental health care, dependence upon methamphetamine, and adult and childhood experiences with physical or sexual abuse variables were included in the model.

Conclusion: The association between sex trade involvement and sexual trauma was not significant once covariates were considered. This finding highlights the importance of comparison groups in research on marginalized populations to promote accurate theorizing and to guide service providers and policy makers.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify the importance of having comparison groups when conducting research with marginalized groups. Explain whether sex trade involvement is associated with symptomatology of sexual trauma. Discuss implications of the findings for mental health practitioners.

Keywords: Mental Health, Sex Workers

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I coordinated the study, conducted the analysis and wrote the abstract. I have directed multiple federally funded grants on drug use, sex trade involvement and psycho-social outcomes of marginalized women.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 3291.0: Psychiatric epidemiology