Mental illness, sexual assault, nurses, healthcare providers, screening, prevention


The Intersection between Sexual Assault and Mental Illness: Psychiatric Nurse’s Role

Shylettera Davis

College of Nursing, BYU

Master of Science

Background: Mental illness (MI) affects one in five Americans. Individuals with severe MI are frequently victims of crime, which includes sexual assault (SA). It is well established that individuals with severe MI are more vulnerable for SA victimization. What is not recognized is if this vulnerability for SA extends to other less serious types of MI.

Aim: To identify and synthesize findings from the literature for any connections between having a MI and increased vulnerability for SA victimization, specific mental or physical negative consequences, and ascertain any recommendations for PMH nurses to improve the standard of care offered to those with a MI who have been sexually assaulted and utilize risk reduction strategies.

Methods: Results were synthesized from 43 published studies (2013-2020) identified from a multi-database search (MEDLINE, CINAHL, CINAHL Complete, and PsycINFO).

Results: Pre-existing MI increases vulnerability to SA victimization, and SA victimization leads to negative sequala, such as suicidality, new onset or worsening MI, substance abuse, and chronic disease development.

Conclusion: Psychiatric mental health (PMH) nurses should screen all patients with any type of MI for history of SA and educate them about increased vulnerability for SA to reduce incidence of future sexual trauma. SA victims should receive timely and appropriate care to reduce negative consequences from a SA.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date








University Standing at Time of Publication

Graduate Student


NURS 631

Included in

Nursing Commons