Acute severe pain is a common consequence of sexual assault

Samuel A. McLean, April C. Soward, Lauren E. Ballina, Catherine Rossi, Suzanne Rotolo, Rebecca Wheeler, Kelly A. Foley, Jayne Batts, Terry Casto, Renee Collette, Debra Holbrook, Elizabeth Goodman, Sheila A.M. Rauch, Israel Liberzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Sexual assault (SA) is common, but the epidemiology of acute pain after SA has not previously been reported. We evaluated the severity and distribution of pain symptoms in the early aftermath of SA among women receiving Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) care, and the treatment of pain by SANE nurses. Severe pain (≥7 on a 0-10 numeric rating scale) was reported by 53/83 women sexual assault survivors (64% [95% CI, 53-74%]) at the time of SANE evaluation and 43/83 women (52% [95% CI, 41-63%]) 1 week later. Pain in 4 or more body regions was reported by 44/83 women (53% [95% CI, 42-64%]) at the time of initial evaluation and 49/83 women (59% [95% CI, 48-70%]) at 1 week follow-up. Among survivors with severe pain at the time of initial postassault evaluation, only 7/53 (13% [95% CI, 6-26%]) received any pain medication at the time of initial SANE treatment. These findings suggest that pain is common in SA survivors in the early postassault period, but rarely treated. Perspective: Acute pain is common after sexual assault. Practice guidelines for SANE nurses and others who provide care to sexual assault survivors in the early aftermath of assault should include specific recommendations for pain evaluation and treatment. Prospective longitudinal studies of pain outcomes among sexual assault survivors are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)736-741
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Sexual assault
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • pain
  • stress
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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