Survivors of interpersonal violence are at increased risk of negative mental health outcomes; however, scant research has explored the relationship between violence exposure and mental health symptoms among formerly incarcerated individuals. This cross-sectional survey study investigates the demographic characteristics and mental health symptoms (i.e., psychological distress and suicidal ideation) associated with interpersonal violence exposure, including physical and sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, and sexual violence perpetrated by prison employees in a sample of formerly incarcerated men and women, with the aim that the findings both deepen the understanding of the effects of sexual violence exposure and help inform prison and jail policies. Surveys were administered to English-speaking adults ages 18 and older to recruit a sample of adults who were formerly incarcerated (N = 201). Questions on the survey included questions regarding demographic details, sexual violence exposure, mental health symptoms, and time incarcerated. Findings show that higher levels of sexual violence exposure were significantly associated with higher levels of psychological distress and reporting of suicidal ideation. Results also suggest that higher levels of income and education and younger age were significantly associated with sexual violence perpetrated by prison employees. In addition, most forms of interpersonal violence were independently associated with psychological distress and suicidal ideation in this population. The findings make recommendations for prison and jail policies to include targeted treatment for individuals with sexual victimization histories, to mitigate the risk of revictimization and appropriately treat adverse mental health outcomes from sexual victimization within and outside the confines of incarceration.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by internal funding from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, through the Competitive and Innovative Research (CIR) Award to DeVylder and Graduate Research Assistantship to Fedina.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Applied Psychology