[Photo: Ericd via en.wikipedia]
New research from UC San Francisco found that 60 percent of the city's homeless and unstably housed women who are HIV-infected or at high risk to become infected have endured a recent experience of some form of violence.
"We looked at all types of violence - physical, sexual and emotional. We expected to find higher rates than those reported in the general population, but we were surprised at the amount of harm inflicted upon this incredibly vulnerable population of women and the multitude of perpetrators," said study principal investigator, Elise D. Riley, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the UCSF HIV/AIDS Division at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.
The study appears online in "First Look" in the American Journal of Public Health.
The study found that, during the prior six months alone, just under two-thirds of the 291 participants experienced recent emotional violence, while just under one-third experienced physical violence and just under one-third experienced sexual violence.
"We were aware that domestic violence is a serious problem in this population; one that led to the recent death of a homeless woman in San Francisco. However, it's even more extensive than that. Our finding that the women participating in our study are also victimized at similar rates, and sometimes even higher, by individuals throughout their neighborhood, unmasks an environment saturated with violence," said Riley.
Contrary to prior studies of women from the general population, researchers found that social isolation decreased the odds of the women in the study experiencing violence. They go on to suggest that social isolation may be a means for some impoverished women to extricate themselves from dangerous environments in the absence of other options.