Sexual Assault Victimization and Suicidal Behavior in Women: A Review of Empirical Studies

Sarah E. Ullman, University of Illinois - Chicago

This talk reviews empirical studies examining the relationship of sexual victimization to women's suicidal behavior. Studies examining the association of sexual assault in childhood and/or adulthood in relation to suicidal ideation, planning of suicide, and suicide attempts are reviewed. Correlates of suicidal behavior in women are reviewed in addition to sexual assault. It is argued that the disproportionate sexual victimization of girls and women may give rise to the greater likelihood of suicide attempts, through a variety of pathways, including psychiatric sequelae such as depression and PTSD, psychosocial factors such as life events and problematic substance use/abuse, and risky lifestyles and behaviors (e.g., association with delinquent peers). An agenda for future research is proposed focusing on the role of sexual assault in the context of other factors to explain the suicidal behavior of women.

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Updated 05/20/2006