Academic journal article Violence and Victims

The Epidemiology of Physical Attack and Rape among Crack-Using Women

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

The Epidemiology of Physical Attack and Rape among Crack-Using Women

Article excerpt

This prospective study examines the epidemiology of physical attack and rape among a sample of 171 not-in-treatment, crack-cocaine using women. Since initiating crack use, 62% of the women reported suffering a physical attack. The annual rate of victimization by physical attack was 45%. Overall, more than half of the victims sought medical care subsequent to an attack. The prevalence of rape since crack use was initiated was 32%, and the annual rate was 11%. Among those women having been raped since they initiated crack use, 83% reported they were high on crack when the crime occurred as were an estimated 57% of the perpetrators. Logistic regression analyses showed that duration of crack use, arrest for prostitution, and some college education were predictors of having experienced a physical attack. Duration of crack use and a history of prostitution were predictors of suffering a rape. Drug abuse treatment programs must be sensitive to high levels of violence victimization experienced by crack-cocaine using women. Screening women for victimization, and treating the problems that emanate from it, may help make drug abuse treatment more effective.

A substantial body of literature suggests a strong connection between nonmedical drug use and violence, although the precise nature of the relationship is subject to question (Amaro, Fried, Cabral, & Zuckerman, 1990; Bennett, Tolman, Rogalski, & Srinivasaraghavan, 1994; Breslau, Davis, Andreski, & Peterson, 1991; Friedman, 1998; Goldstein, 1985; Hien, & Hien, 1998; Kilpatrick, Acierno, Resnick, Saunders, & Best, 1997; National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [NIJCDCP], 1998; National Research Council, 1993). Uncertainty exists as to whether it is the effects of the drugs, the social milieu in which drugs are purchased and used, or other factors that are responsible for the violence. Some research on alcohol suggests that the effects of addiction may be more predictive of interpersonal violence than are the acute effects of the drug (Leonard, Bromet, Parkinson, Day, & Ryan, 1985). Other researchers have also factored micro and macro economic considerations into the drugs-violence equation (Dunlap & Johnson, 1992; Goldstein, 1985). Regardless, the preponderance of research on drugs and violence suggests that violence emanates from the complex interplay of the pharmacology of the drug, the psychology of the user, and the context of use (Friedman, 1998; Graham et al., 1998).

Historically, the relationship between alcohol use and violence has been the subject of the majority of scientific inquiries, but in the late 1980s the violence associated with crackcocaine was thrust into focus. Over the past decade, the violence that has become nearly synonymous with crack-cocaine use has been highlighted in the popular media and been the subject of a number of descriptive scientific studies (Carlson & Siegal, 1991; Egan,1999; Fullilove, Lown, & Fullilove, 1992; Inciardi & Pottieger, 1991; Ratner, 1993). In these reports, violence has been linked to virtually every aspect of the crack-cocaine subculture from distribution to use. Yet, epidemiological characterizations of the crack-violence phenomenon are remarkably scarce.

The annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) describes the characteristics of crime victims and provides an overview of the rates of victimization among the general United States population (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998). In calendar year 1997, as in years past, Black people and people with low incomes were more likely to have been victims of crime. Women were more likely to be victims of sex crimes, men were more likely to be victims of other crimes. There were 2.5 rapes/sexual assaults and 10.4 aggravated assaults per 1,000 women in 1997. The role alcohol and other drugs like crack-cocaine may have played in any of the victimizations was not addressed.

Results from a study of 8,000 women who participated in the National Violence Against Women (NVAW) survey showed that 51. …

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