40% of women with severe mental illness are victims of rape or attempted rape

Women with severe mental illness are up to five times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault and two to three times more likely to suffer domestic violence, reveals new research led by UCL and King’s College London funded by the Medical Research Council and the Big Lottery.

The study, published in Psychological Medicine, found that 40% of women surveyed with severe mental illness had suffered rape or attempted rape in adulthood, of whom 53% had attempted suicide as a result. In the general population, 7% of women had been victims of rape or attempted rape, of whom 3% had attempted suicide. 12% of men with severe mental illness had been seriously sexually assaulted, compared with 0.5% of the general population.

The findings are based on a survey of 303 randomly-recruited psychiatric outpatients who had been in contact with community services for a year or more, 60% of whom had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. They were interviewed using the British Crime Survey questionnaire for domestic and sexual violence, and their responses were compared to those from 22,606 respondents to the 2011/12 national crime survey. The results were adjusted for a wide range of socio-economic factors including age, ethnicity and marital status.

“The number of rape victims among women with severe mental illness is staggering,” says lead author Dr Hind Khalifeh of UCL’s Division of Psychiatry. “At the time of the survey, 10% had experienced sexual assault in the past year, showing that the problems continue throughout adulthood. Considering the high rate of suicide attempts among rape victims in this group, clinicians assessing people after a suicide attempt should consider asking them if they have been sexually assaulted. Currently this is not done and so patients may miss opportunities to receive specialist support.”

Men and women with mental illness were also found to be more likely to be victims of domestic violence than the general population. Domestic violence includes emotional, physical and sexual abuse.* 69% of women and 49% of men with severe mental illness reported adulthood domestic violence.

Domestic violence from family members (other than partners) made up 63% of total domestic violence cases against psychiatric patients compared with 35% of the general population. “Most domestic violence prevention policies for adults focus on partner violence, but this study shows that interventions for psychiatric patients also need to target family violence,” says Dr Khalifeh.

The study shows a strong association between mental illness and sexual and domestic violence, but the direction of causality is not certain. In some cases, experiences of violence may have contributed to the onset of mental illness. However, violence experienced in the past year would have been after diagnosis of severe mental illness since all participating patients had been under the care of mental health services for at least a year.


That`s a sad statistic…


I am myself a survivor of domestic violence, it was very painful but then I became strong took legal help from living trust attorney Alexandria, VA. I then fighted and finally got justice.

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I’ll just copy and paste the Opinions on comment as had the same thought

The article seems to be about research done in the UK. I wonder if the prevalence in other countries is similar.

I believe that the rates for men are probably a lower than actual occurrence because of a stronger stigma associated with men being raped.

Probably the same for the domestic violence. Especially if the attacker was a female.

Understatement. Disturbing came to my mind.

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Plus all the unreported rapes.

My brother n law tried to rape me and sexually harassed me and mentally abused me for 15 years and my sister wont believe it

Which came first, the rape or the MI?


He tried to rape me twice when i was 18 i think yhe second time i was drugged after that he spent 14 years trying to intimidate me then last year the sexual harassment started and a few months ago he tried to rape me again but i hit him and yelled and got away then i just snapped had a psychotic break and when i came out of it i told my husband everything, hes a bad bad man lots of other woman have come forward and said hes done similar to them or cheated with them but my sister doesnt believe me she says i liked it and him ive never been so hurt in my life im scared to even go to the corner store alone :confused: I dont like bad people i want to file charges but my husband wants to move me away from it all.

rape is why I avoid porn. that’s a scary statistic.

lucky I’m a dude…

I dont mind talking about it because its not my fault and hes a bad one The MI started in my early teens but my mother insisted i was being harassed by demons so i hid it then a real monster came after me in him and i thought it was all in my head so i kept quiet :frowning:

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I’m sorry that happened to you. I was also the victim of sexual abuse. I didn’t tell anyone about it for years, because I was a kid and I didn’t know it was wrong. It took me a long time to be able to trust people again after that. I hope you’re able to find a way to heal from this.


I think being a child would be worse at least i was a little older when it started im so so sorry for you i hope you are doing well thank you for the kind words, I didn’t tell anyone because i didn’t understand i was sick as well until now and he was threatening me with violence its just a bad bad world.

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I am doing well, now. It took a lot of therapy, but now I can actually enjoy sex again. I just got married a few months ago, actually!


Congratulations!!! I gave a very nice team of drs at the mental health facility in my town that are really helping me only hard part is they are pressing me to file charges for all the abuse but i cant my sister will never talk to me if i do hes got her brain washed or something i dont know even after everything else hes admitted to and shes found out she still thinks its all my fault they said its like misdirected anger and or something. So happy for your recent marriage!!!

It’s good you can talk about it now. It’s never your fault when your not the abuser. Sad you had to keep it all so quiet out of fear.
Honestly, if people would only understand that half the trauma from surviving this kind of stuff comes from others reaction who haven’t got a clue and are part of the problem.
We don’t need nor want pity, or those stupid wide eyed looks and hurtful misguided statements, We need/want protection from everyone that hurts us and demands our silence.


But what do you want to do? Leaving your sister and your support workers out of it, do you want to press charges, or would you rather just move on? If he wasn’t your brother-in-law, what would your decision be?

It might feel like you would be betraying your sister, but another way to look at it is that maybe you’re trying to save her from a lifetime attached to an abusive rapist. If he is abusing other women all the time, chances are she is being abused, too, and just doesn’t want to admit it. It is a very common reaction to abuse.


I want to have him arrested to be honest. Hes pretty much destroyed my entire life and im really worried about my sister. Im also terrified hes going to come after me but ive been so sick everyone thinks i should just get away and put it behind me (my husband, mother, other sisters)

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It’s possible that the stress of knowing he is walking around free is part of the reason you’re feeling so sick right now. If you want to press charges, then you should. Don’t worry about your sister being mad at you. Maybe, if he is convicted, that will be the wake up call she needs to finally see what a monster he is. You never know.

I will say that pressing charges is a horrible and upsetting process, and his lawyers will do everything they can to discredit you and tarnish your reputation. It takes a lot of bravery to do it, but it is a good thing. You would be standing up for all his past victims, and stopping him from hurting anyone else in the future.

I can’t tell you what to do. I didn’t press charges in my case. Not on the ones who hurt me as a kid, and not on the one who hurt me as an adult. I just wanted to forget about it and move on. But your sister, your support workers, and your husband also can’t tell you what to do. It has to be something you decide for yourself.


I have been abuse free for 13 years! I have been raped at least 3 times-date rapes from 17-29 yo. Hated it! I have major trauma in my past…I protect the shi$ out of myself and my daughter-now 19yo. She has never been abused. I have never lived with a man or been married.

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What happened first, the abuse or the mental illness?
Therein lies the question