Sexual Assault History and Suicidal Behavior in a National Sample of Women


  • We thank Silvia Sara Canetto for helpful comments on an earlier version of this article. Also, we gratefully acknowledge support from the University of Illinois at Chicago Campus Research Board. The national Comorbidity Study (NCS) is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (Grants R01 MH/DA46376 and R01 MH49098), the National Institute of Drug Abuse (through a supplement to R01 MH/DA46376), and the W.T. Grant Foundation (Grant 90135190).

Department of Criminal Justice (M/C 141), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 West Harrison Street, Chicago, IL 60607–7140. E-mail:


This study examined demographic and psychosocial correlates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in women with histories of sexual assault in childhood and/or adulthood identified from a national sample of women. Multivariate analyses showed that women with histories of sexual assault in both childhood and adulthood reported significantly greater odds of lifetime suicide attempts, controlling for demographic factors and other psychosocial characteristics. As predicted, younger age (marginal), stressful life events (marginal), depression, PTSD, and alcohol dependence symptoms were also significantly associated with suicidal ideation. Furthermore, number of lifetime traumatic events and depression were each associated with lifetime odds of suicide attempts. Implications for studying the role of sexual trauma and other psychosocial factors in relation to women's suicidal behavior are discussed.