1 in 5 Patients With A Mental Illness Suffered Sexual Abuse

There’s a violent epidemic plaguing mental health patients: rape. According to a new report out of Brazil, about one in five patients with a mental illness report being the victims of sexual violence. Women experience sexual violence more than men, but the numbers across the board are shocking.

The report focused on the epidemic in Brazil, but given what we already know about rape and the under-reporting of attacks, there’s no reason to think these numbers are isolated simply to that country or that they are not actually higher. According to the report 26.6% of women and 12.5% of men with mental illnesses reported experiencing sexual violence at some point in their lives.

The study looked at 2475 patients, age 18 and up, from 11 psychiatric hospitals and 15 psychosocial care outpatient centers in Brazil. Participants in the study were interviewed about their experiences of sexual violence, which those conducting the survey defined as being forced to have unwanted sexual relations or having any kind of abuse of a sexual nature against their will.

Not surprisingly, women reported a majority of those assaults came from someone they knew. The same was true for men, though at a slightly lower rates.

The factors that contributed to the incidents of sexual violence underscore the challenges men and women living with mental illness face on a daily basis. Among women, factors independently associated with sexual violence included younger age (18-40 years), living alone, a history of homelessness, previous psychiatric hospitalization, a history of lifetime sexual diseases, a diagnosis of depression or schizophrenia/psychosis, a sexual “debut” age of less than 16 years, a lifetime of irregular condom use, and receiving or being offered money for sex. Among men, younger age (18-40 years), previous psychiatric hospitalization, age at first hospitalization of less than 18 years, lifetime use of marijuana or cocaine, a diagnosis of depression or schizophrenia/other psychosis, and receiving or being offered money for sex were independently associated with sexual violence.

The take away from a study like this is that sexual violence is an epidemic across the world and that mental illness is one factor that increases the likelihood of experiencing sexual violence in a person’s lifetime. That means that sexual violence should be treated as a public health epidemic and not just a crime.


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Photo from bahadorjn via flickr.


Lucia Cabrera
Lucia Cabrera4 years ago

I'm pretty sure the numbers are in fact higher.

Sandi O'Donovan
Sandra O'Donovan4 years ago

It's so sad to read but sexual violence is everywhere and is continuing right now! Thanx for the insight..

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

it is a sad thing. Do we count repeats.. I mean a great number are raped, but many are sexually abused more than once (by different perpetrators)

Nelliel K.
Nelliel K.5 years ago

This just horrible

Lois B.
Lois Brooks5 years ago

Just as we try to assign our vulnerable children a 'safe person' to seek out for help...........a 'safe person' should be assigned by the psychiatric clinic diagnosing a person as mentally ill.
That is..........in a perfect world.

Beth M.
Beth M5 years ago

Fully agree with the findings.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thank you. Very interesting.

Miacid Tempest
Miacid Tempest5 years ago

oops meant to put emphasis on WRONG but oh well

Miacid Tempest
Miacid Tempest5 years ago

Rape is rape no matter what. It doesnt matter if she was wearing clothing on almost all exposed skin or nothing at all its rape and it is MORALLY wrong and psychologically wounding more than our hideous rape culture would like to admit.

Abc D.
Past Member 5 years ago

Mental illness is a state of mind. The leader of the 1930s surrealist movement, Andre Breton who studied psychiatry in Europe wrote that psychiatrists should be shot dead. Andre Breton was against slavery and helped Haiti win independence from France. Psychiatrists do seem to promote a system of slavery such as zombism through medication and abuse of patients. In the 19th century a women was foced into a mental institution for putting a wantad in a newspaper for a husband. Today, this is common. Those against psychiatry say psychiatrists target artists, mathematicians, women, women abused by men, women with children, children, indigenous people, and sexually adventurous people--free spririts. Usually, psychiatrists further abuse their patients to make more money on them. Psychiatry dates back to Ancient Egypt as the "Cult of Osiris" (the third eye) before going to Ancient Greece and establishing itself as a medical profression. It probably was originally part of Ancient Egypt's ruthless military. It probably has done some good somewhere, but it appears to cause many more casualties than successes.