According to a new study from Michigan State University, college women with mental health or behavioral disabilities experience sexual violence that intentionally preys upon their specific disability.
The research, published by the Journal of Women’s Health, shows that sexual violence and abuse worsens the mental health of women with disabilities. This degradation of mental health is often accompanied by other negative long term impacts in their professional and academic lives.
Women involved in the study said alcohol was a common facilitator for sexual violence in a “hook-up” setting. Women reported that abusers would use their disability in order to manipulate a sexual connection.
Women also reported that sexual violence would span multiple abusive partners. Women in abusive relationships would suffer abuse, such as name-calling or intimidation, that was directly related to their specific disability.
These women suffered detrimental effects in their personal lives—both personal and behavioral. This meant for some a reluctance to socialize, or to go out in public, as well as trouble sleeping—which lead to their grades suffering.
The women victimized by sexual violence experienced suicidal thoughts, depression, stress, anxiety and PTSD.
“Campuses nationwide must continue investing in programs that improve response to sexual violence and relationship violence. This includes primary prevention programs and support services for the specific needs of women with mental health conditions.” Amy Bonomi, lead author of the research report, told MSU Today.