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Relationship Between Adult Sexual Assault and Prostitution: An Exploratory Analysis

NCJ Number
Violence and Victims Volume: 18 Issue: 3 Dated: June 2003 Pages: 299-317
Rebecca Campbell; Courtney E. Ahrens; Tracy Sefl; Marcia L. Clark
Date Published
June 2003
19 pages
This document discusses the question of whether being raped as an adult is associated with exchanging sex for money.
Two research questions were examined in this study. First, within a sample of urban women raped as adults, what percentage reported exchanging sex for money post-rape, and what factors differentiated those that had and had not engaged in prostitution. Second, for those women that had engaged in prostitution post-rape, what role, whether any, did being raped as an adult have in that outcome. To obtain a sample of adult rape survivors, the recruitment protocol for this study was modeled after the techniques of adaptive sampling. Interviews were conducted in person. Measures were basic demographic information and assault characteristics, secondary victimization, psychological well-being, physical health symptomatology, substance abuse, and engaging in prostitution. Nearly 24 percent of the women in the sample stated that they had engaged in prostitution post-rape. Twenty-five percent reported that exchanging sex for money was unrelated to their experience of being raped. For these women, prostitution was a way of financing a drug habit or for supporting themselves and their children. Most of the women that had exchanged sex for money felt that it was related to the rape. The specifics of what happened in the assault did not distinguish those that had and had not engaged in prostitution. Several demographic and psychosocial factors did distinguish those that had exchanged sex for money post-rape. The overwhelming majority of the women that disclosed engaging in prostitution were women of color (predominately African-American). Experiencing secondary victimization - negative, victim-blaming treatment from social system personnel - significantly differentiated those that had and had not exchanged sex for money post-rape. The women that had engaged in prostitution post-rape also had higher levels of psychological distress and physical health symptomatology. Both the quantitative and qualitative data support a link between substance abuse and engaging in prostitution. Although engaging in prostitution may not be a common outcome of adult sexual assault, the results of this study suggest there is still much to be learned about how rape affects women’s well-being. 1 figure, 4 notes, 74 references