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Sexual assault often leads to mental illness

Many people in California and across the United States are unaware that mental illness, and not just physical ailments and disabilities, may qualify an applicant for Social Security Disability benefits. However, these mental impairments are often more difficult to prove to Social Security Administration officials, so applicants should ensure that they have sufficient medical evidence and other information about their mental health issue and history.

In a recent study, researchers found that sexual assault or other gender-based violence leads to mental health issues with much greater frequency than was previously believed. The study was conducted with a survey of approximately 4,500 Australian women, 27 percent of whom reported that they had been the victim of at least one instance of gender-based violence. Specifically, approximately 15 percent reported that they had been sexually assaulted, 8 percent reported a rape and 8 percent reported serious physical abuse by a spouse or partner. Some women experienced more than one type of violence.

Of the women who reported that they had been assaulted in some way, approximately 57 percent stated that they had suffered from some form of mental health ailment in the months or years following the assault. In comparison, 28 percent of women who had never experienced gender-based violence reported a mental health disorder.

Specifically, the researchers found, women who had been physically or sexually assault had a 15 percent lifetime risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, a 23 percent risk of abusing alcohol or another substance, and a 39 and 31 percent risk of developing an anxiety and a mood disorder, respectively.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Victims of sex crimes have higher risk for mental health issues," Karen Kaplan, August 2, 2011

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