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Women Health. 1998;27(3):37-49.

Prostitution, violence, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

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Prostitution Research and Education, Women's Centers, San Francisco, CA 94116-0254, USA.


One hundred and thirty people working as prostitutes in San Francisco were interviewed regarding the extent of violence in their lives and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fifty-seven percent reported that they had been sexually assaulted as children and 49% reported that they had been physically assaulted as children. As adults in prostitution, 82% had been physically assaulted; 83% had been threatened with a weapon; 68% had been raped while working as prostitutes; and 84% reported current or past homelessness. We differentiated the types of lifetime violence as childhood sexual assault; childhood physical abuse; rape in prostitution; and other (non-rape) physical assault in prostitution. PTSD severity was significantly associated with the total number of types of lifetime violence (r = .21, p = .02); with childhood physical abuse (t = 2.97, p = .004); rape in adult prostitution (Student's t = 2.77, p = .01); and the total number of times raped in prostitution (Kruskal-Wallace chi square = 13.51, p = .01). Of the 130 people interviewed, 68% met DSM III-R criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD. Eighty-eight percent of these respondents stated that they wanted to leave prostitution, and described what they needed in order to escape.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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