Sexual Abuse Among Homeless Adolescents: Prevalence, Correlates, and Sequelae

Jody M. Greene, Rebecca Sanchez, Jennifer Manlove, Elizabeth Terry-Humen, Sharon Vandivere, Richard Wertheimer, Stephanie Williams, Jonathan Zaff, and Christopher L. Ringwalt

November 2002

Over the past two decades, there has been increasing recognition that runaway and homeless youth constitute a vulnerable population that faces a multitude of problems while away from home and, often, difficulties of equal magnitude in the homes they have left. Unfortunately, many of the physical and social environments that they then find for themselves increase the likelihood that they will engage in survival sex, substance use, and other risky behaviors. Although these behaviors are now well documented, relatively little is known about the scope and prevalence of sexual abuse among the families of origin of runaway and homeless youth, the extent to which such abuse may exceed that of comparable youth in the general population, and the role that sexual abuse plays in the youth’s decision to leave home. The overall purpose of the study was to begin to delineate the scope of the problem, to stimulate further discussion, and to make recommendations concerning research and policy. To accomplish study goals, we conducted both an extensive literature review and secondary analyses of existing datasets. This report presents the results of each of these initiatives, synthesizes findings, and presents recommendations.

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