Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, found that survivors of rape and other interpersonal violence were more likely than others to develop health problems and to increase their use of health services. The study, published in a series of three articles in the journal Behavioral Medicine, followed survivors for 3 years after the violent attack and found health problems ranging from psychological disturbances to chronic physical problems.
“You have a person who uses a set amount of health care and then they get raped. That next year, their health care utilization will increase 18%. They’re going to their doctors, they have general complaints, they have panic, they have anxiety-related gastrointestinal distress,” said Dr. Ron Acierno, co-author of the study. Use of health care services increased 56% in the second year after a rape and 31% in the third year.
Acierno stated that his report encourages doctors to be proactive in asking patients whether they have been assaulted, given that societal stigma prevents many from openly offering that information. “The people doctors are more likely to see — especially on a repeated basis — are assault victims, yet it’s not being addressed.” Acierno further recommends that medical schools begin training their students about violent assault and its effects on patient health.