Online Program

Sexual trauma and PTSD symptoms among female homeless youth

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 10:50 a.m. - 11:10 a.m.

Harmony Rhoades, PhD, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Eric Rice, PhD, School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Hailey Winetrobe, MPH, CHES, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background: Homeless youth experience high rates of traumatic experiences, both before and during homelessness. Understanding homeless youths' gender-based differences in the prevalence and impact of sexual victimization can inform trauma-based interventions. Methods: As part of a longitudinal study of homeless youth utilizing drop-in centers in Los Angeles, 652 homeless and unstably-housed youth (ages 14-25) were asked about housing, traumatic experiences, and mental health. Results: Female homeless youth comprised 25% of the sample. Females were twice as likely as their male counterparts to experience lifetime sexual abuse (chi2=26.43; p<0.001), and were three times as likely to have ever been forced to have sex (chi2=64.14; p<0.001). Thirty-seven percent of female homeless youth had been forced to have sex, and 27% of those who had been forced to have sex had this happen while homeless. Female youth were also more likely to have current PTSD symptoms (chi2=7.32; p<0.01). PTSD symptoms were associated with ever being forced to have sex (chi2=11.85; p<0.01), and with being forced to have sex while homeless (chi2=8.11; p<0.01). Female homeless youth were less likely than males to be currently staying in public locations (i.e., on the street, beach, campsite, vehicle, abandoned building) (chi2=11.21; chi2<0.01); thus, vulnerability due to homelessness visibility cannot fully explain differences in experiences of sexual victimization while homeless. Discussion: Female homeless youth experience more sexual trauma than their male counterparts. These experiences may contribute to higher rates of current PTSD symptoms. Sexual victimization prevention and mental health care should be prioritized for female homeless youth.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify higher rates of sexual victimization among female, versus male, homeless youth. Demonstrate differences in current PTSD symptoms between male and female homeless youth. Discuss the need for improved mental health care and sexual victimization prevention for female homeless youth.

Keyword(s): Homelessness, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the project director for this study and have been involved in all areas of research development and implementation. I conducted the data analysis for and wrote the abstract that is being submitted.
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.