A new UC San Francisco study found that more than half the city's homeless and unstably housed women who are HIV-infected or at high risk to become infected have recently experienced some form of violence.
The study looked at all types of violence, including physical, emotion, and sexual, and found that during the last six months, roughly two-thirds of the 291 participants experienced some form of emotional violence. Another one-third were victims of physical violence and nearly one-third experienced sexual violence, according to the study.
Elise D. Riley, the lead researcher of the study, say these findings are an unpleasant surprise.
"We were aware that domestic violence is a serious problem in this population; one that led to the recent death of a homeless woman in San Francisco," said Riley, who is an associate professor of medicine at UCSF. "However, it's even more extensive than that."
Riley added that the women who participated in the study were often victimized by individuals within their own neighborhoods. Interestingly enough, researchers found that social isolation actually decreased the chances of women becoming victims of violence.
In other words, social isolation just might be a way for some impoverished women to extricate themselves from dangerous environments when they have no other options. Martha Shumway, the senior author of the study, said in these cases "it's safer and better for you to be by yourself."
"Clearly, the settings in San Francisco in which homeless and marginally housed women find themselves are incredibly chaotic with threats of violence commonplace," said Shumway, who is a UCSF associate professor of psychiatry.
The study also concluded that participants with more psychiatric diagnoses were at a higher risk of facing violence on the streets. Thus, researchers recommend a comprehensive violence screening for women and their partners.
The study is featured in the American Journal of Public Health this week