This paper examines the rates of interpersonal violence and trauma reported in a sample of 98 urban, low-income women, predominantly Latina or African-American descent constituting a “normal” control group for a larger study on drug abuse and violence. This sample was recruited from the obstetrics-gynecology outpatient clinic at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City and carefully screened for the absence of any DSM-IV Axis I psychopathology including major mood disorders, anxiety, psychotic, alcohol and substance use disorders. Consistent with the literature, our sample exhibited rates of interpersonal violence and trauma markedly above estimates for women nationwide; compared to such national figures, our sample was at higher risk for experiencing childhood sexual abuse, childhood physical abuse, and partner violence. Almost one-quarter of our sample met diagnostic criteria for lifetime post-traumatic stress disorder. Ten to twenty percent of our sample reported other kinds of trauma, such as witnessing a murder, seeing violence between her parents, or being homeless. Interestingly, women in our sample were more likely than women nationwide to tell someone else of their abuse or trauma; it may be that disclosure of such events to a supportive person has protected these women to a certain extent from some of the longer-term potential effects of such negative experiences. The data collected in this study underscore the need for mental health and medical professionals to be sensitive to the high prevalence of certain kinds of traumatic and violent experiences in the lives of inner-city, low-income, minority women.
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