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Mediating Role of Stigmatization in the Mental Health of Adolescent Victims of Sexual Violence in Eastern Congo

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2014 Pages: 1139-1146
A. Verelst; M. De Schryver; L. De Haene; E. Broekaert; I. Derluyn
Date Published
July 2014
8 pages
This study examined the interactions between mental health outcomes and social disruption resulting from sexual violence in war-affected communities.
This study on the interactions between mental health outcomes and social disruption resulting from sexual violence in war-affected communities found that of the 1,305 study participants, 38.2 percent reported experiences of sexual violence, and that victims of sexual violence reported more war-related traumatic events and more stigmatization experiences. In addition, the study found that after controlling for sociodemographic variables and war-related traumatic exposure, the stigmatization experienced by the victims largely explained the mental health impact of the sexual violence, especially in regards to victims' reported symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress. The study also found no evidence of mediation by stigmatization for symptoms of anxiety and intrusion. The primary goal of this study was to explore the factors that explain the mental sequelae of war-related sexual violence and focus in particular on the role of stigmatization. The study, conducted in the war-affected region of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, analyzed how stigmatization mediated the mental health impact of sexual violence on adolescent girls who were victims of rape. Twenty-two secondary schools were randomly selected out of a stratified sample in Bunia, Eastern Congo, and 1,305 adolescent girls aged 11-23 completed self-report measures assessing war-related traumatic events, experiences of sexual violence, stigmatization, and mental health symptoms. The findings from the study suggest that stigmatization plays an important role in shaping the mental health outcomes of adolescent girls who are victims of sexual violence. Implications for practice are discussed. Figure, tables, and references