Comparative Study
Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
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Sexual assault and alcohol abuse: a comparison of lesbians and heterosexual women.

PURPOSE: To compare and contrast lesbians' and heterosexual women's experiences of sexual assault and to investigate relationships between sexual assault and alcohol abuse.

METHODS: In-depth interviews were conducted with 63 lesbians and a demographically matched comparison group of 57 heterosexual women. Lesbians' and heterosexual women's experiences of sexual assault, drinking levels, and alcohol-abuse indicators were compared using descriptive statistics. LISREL analysis was used to test the effects of sexual assault on a latent measure of alcohol abuse.

RESULTS: Lesbians reported more childhood sexual experiences, were more likely to meet the study definition for childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and were more likely to perceive themselves as having been sexually abused as children. CSA was associated with lifetime alcohol abuse in both lesbian and heterosexual women. However, adult sexual assault (ASA) was associated with alcohol abuse only in heterosexual women.

IMPLICATIONS: Sexual assault is a common experience among both lesbians and heterosexual women. Findings emphasize the importance of asking about sexual assault in health histories, and assessing clients for substance abuse and other sequelae of sexual assault.

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