In recent years, an increase in the prevalence of sexual abuse of women has been reported in Canada and elsewhere. However, there are few empirical data on the extent of the problem in Canadian aboriginal populations. The authors investigated the presence of a reported history of sexual abuse and other health determinants in a sample of women attending a community health centre with a substantial aboriginal population. This allowed determination of whether reported sexual abuse and its associated demographic and health-related effects were different for aboriginal and non-aboriginal women.
A sample of 1696 women was selected from women attending a community health centre in a predominantly low-income inner-city area of Winnipeg for a cross-sectional survey designed to study the association between sexual behavior and cervical infections. The survey was conducted between November 1992 and March 1995 and involved a clinical examination, laboratory tests and an interviewer-administered questionnaire. A substudy was conducted among 1003 women who were asked 2 questions about sexual abuse.
The overall response rate for the main study was 87%. Of the 1003 women who were asked the questions about sexual abuse, 843 (84.0%) responded. Among the respondents, 368 (43.6%) were aboriginal. Overall, 308 (36.5%) of the respondents reported having been sexually abused, 74.0% of the incidents having occurred during childhood. The prevalence was higher among aboriginal women than among non-aboriginal women (44.8% v. 30.1%, p
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