Self-report of domestic violence and forced sex are related to sexual risk behaviors in a sample of juvenile detainees

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Health Justice


BACKGROUND: Justice-involved youth have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and a higher prevalence of the associated sexual risk behaviors. Sexual risk behaviors are also associated with alcohol and drug use. Research suggests that a history of trauma is an important predictor of alcohol and drug use in youth offenders, and therefore is a likely contributor to sexual risk behavior in this population. The objective of this analysis is to determine the association of trauma, specifically, domestic violence and forced sex, to six sexual risk behaviors and a history of chlamydia among detained youth.

METHODS: The analysis uses data from a convenience sample of detainees assenting to HIV testing conducted December 2016 - August 2017 using the state-certified Voluntary Counseling Testing and Referral (VCTR) process.

RESULTS: Of the 379 youth that received VCTR at the facility, 308 (81.3%) were used in this analysis. Report of domestic violence was significantly associated with sex under the influence of alcohol and was also significantly associated with sex under the influence of marijuana. Forced sex was associated with a sexual partner of unknown HIV status.

CONCLUSIONS: Traumatic experiences were related to sexual risk behaviors in this analysis, and substance use was strongly implicated in the association. Trauma is known to be a catalyst to sexual risk behaviors, substance use, and delinquency in adolescence. Results support the findings of other investigators and re-iterate the need for trauma-informed interventions that can improve the life trajectories of detained youth.

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