Methods: In 2017, 4,565 individuals responded to questions regarding their experiences with SV as part of the New Jersey Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (NJBRFS), which works within the national survey, as a component of the national Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). NJBRFS is an ongoing telephone survey designed to collect health-related data from noninstitutionalized adults. Bivariate statistical analyses were conducted using cross-tabulations and chi-squares to examine the associations of SV outcomes with health and demographic characteristics and factors. Odds ratios were calculated using logistic regression methods. Weighting procedures were used to account for the complex sampling design of the NJBRFS.
Results: Results indicate that 8.5% of NJ adults have encountered some kind of SV in their life, with 2.3% in the past 12 months. Perpetrator characteristics indicate that approximately 87% of SV acts are committed by someone already familiar to the survivor (e.g., spouse, family member, acquaintance); 96% of SV incidents are perpetrated by a member of the opposite sex. NJ women were two times more likely to experience SV than men within the previous 12 months, and Black residents had 1.5 greater odds of experiencing SV in the past 12 months compared to white NJ residents. Moreover, 25% of respondents who experienced SV in the past 12 months also experienced mental health challenges in the past 30 days, compared to 8% of those who did not encounter a SV incident in the past 12 months. Also, 27% of residents reporting SV were more likely to report engaging in HIV risk behaviors, and/or having received treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections, compared to 5% who did not experience sexual violence in the past 12 months.
Implications: This study shows that SV affects the lives of NJ residents differently, depending on gender and race, which may have important impacts on residents’ health. Social workers must work to both prevent these incidences and respond when they occur. Ongoing efforts of social workers and policymakers at the state level should encourage community-based, culturally & gender specific prevention and resources, as well as multisectoral collaborative responses for survivors in order to tackle inequalities, advocate for social justice, and ensure the needs of survivors are met.