Date of Defense:
June 20, 2014
Intro: In the US, nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. Victims of sexual assault experience a variety of physical and mental health consequences, including sexually transmitted infections and PTSD. Ramsey County Sexual Offense Services (SOS) advocates follow – up with victims of sexual assault and connect them to services to help them recover. Research and best practices demonstrate that these interventions can lead to improved health outcomes for victims of sexual assault. There are extensive recommendations from the CDC, AMA, and ACOG on the acute care needs of victims of sexual assault, and these organizations recommend that victims receive follow – up care; however, there is little or no agreement on what follow – up care should include.
Methods: The SOS director and I designed this technical report project to improve the SOS follow – up protocol in order to increase follow – up rates and improve the health outcomes of SOS clients. A literature review was conducted to determine best practices for sexual assault follow – up and to ground the project in research. Key informant interviews were conducted to determine novel follow – up techniques that were not present in the literature. Interview results were analyzed for themes and innovative foll ow – up strategies. Consistent status meetings were conducted at SOS to include them in the research process and report results periodically.
Results: For the literature review, 80 articles were initially identified and 30 were chosen to inform this project. Key findings from the literature review included the need for early medical follow – up care, early psychological care especially from support groups, the high rates of PTSD among victims of sexual assault and the need for long – term psychological services, and the need for new techniques and technologies to maintain contact with victims of sexual assault. The interview results included the novel follow – up approaches of periodically initiated closed support groups, on site individual counseling, and texting and emailing victims as means of maintaining contact with victims. These results were used to recommend improvements to the SOS follow – up protocol.
Conclusion: The information and knowledge gained through this project have the opportunity to inform future improvements in follow – up, not only at SOS, but also more broadly, in other public health and health care settings that seek to improve the health outcomes of victims of sexual assault.