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Mental Health Needs of Crime Victims: Epidemiology and Outcomes

NCJ Number
Journal of Traumatic Stress Volume: 16 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2003 Pages: 119-132
Dean G. Kilpatrick; Ron Acierno
Date Published
April 2003
14 pages
This paper examines the scope and mental health impact of crime, primarily violent crime, in the United States from an epidemiological perspective.
Specifically, the authors describe various ways crime is measured, the limitations of these measurement methods, and estimates of crime generated by each method. The emphasis is on methods that generate national crime estimates; however, well-conducted studies that focus on a more limited geographic region in the United States are also considered. Generally, the paper addresses violent crimes, although property crimes are discussed when relevant. To the extent possible, the paper examines the epidemiology of crimes that have occurred across the lifespan, irrespective of whether crimes are perpetrated by strangers, acquaintances, or romantic partners. Regarding mental health effects from crime victimization, the paper focuses on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because it is the most consistently documented consequence of crime. The authors conclude that overall men are physically assaulted more often than women, but women are sexually assaulted more often than men. Rates of lifetime PTSD in response to sexual assault range from 30 percent to 80 percent, depending on the type of sexual victimization; rates of PTSD that result from physical assault range from 23 percent to 39 percent. Women develop PTSD in response to physical or sexual assault at about the same rate, but men rarely develop PTSD as a result of physical assault; however, they regularly develop PTSD in response to sexual assault such as rape. Younger people are at increased risk of victimization, and are more likely to develop PTSD as a result of the victimization. Past victimization is the most powerful risk factor for future victimization. Existing research has shown that completed rape, perceived life threat during assault, and injury due to assault are associated with increased risk of PTSD. 73 references