Journal of Traumatic Stress

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 51-70

First online:

The Relationship Between Violence Dimensions and Symptom Severity Among Homeless, Mentally Ill Women

  • Lisa A. GoodmanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Maryland
  • , Mary Ann DuttonAffiliated withDepartment of Emergency Medicine, George Washington University
  • , Maxine HarrisAffiliated withCommunity Connections

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Little is known about the relationship between violence and symptomatology in the lives of homeless, mentally ill women. This study investigates the possibility that specific dimensions of violence—frequency, recentness and type—may be associated with severity of psychiatric symptomatology in this population. Results indicate that each of the abuse dimensions is associated with a broad range of psychiatric symptoms and, in combination with substance abuse, account for almost one third of the variance in overall distress. These findings suggest the possibility that intensity of exposure to violence contributes to the severity of psychiatric symptoms even in women who already suffer an overwhelming number of intrapsychic and social difficulties; and that multiply traumatized women do not become desensitized to the impact of new violence. This article discusses the clinical and policy implications of these conclusions.

homeless women mental illness physical abuse sexual abuse victimization