Original Research

Sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress among African female refugees and migrants in South Africa

Mpho D. Mhlongo, Andrew Tomita, Lindokuhle Thela, Varsha Maharaj, Jonathan K. Burns
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 24 | a1208 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v24i0.1208 | © 2018 mpho dianah mhlongo, Andrew Tomita, Lindokuhle Thela, Varsha Maharaj, Jonathan k Burns | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 February 2018 | Published: 07 June 2018

About the author(s)

Mpho D. Mhlongo, Department of Psychiatry, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Andrew Tomita, KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa and Centre for Rural Health, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Lindokuhle Thela, Department of Psychiatry, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Varsha Maharaj, Department of Psychiatry, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Jonathan K. Burns, Department of Psychiatry, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal and Institute of Health Research, University of Exeter, United Kingdom


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Abstract

Background: While there is considerable research in developed countries on the nature and extent of post-traumatic stress among refugees and migrants, few report on female Africans migrating within Africa.

Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the association between exposure to traumatic life events and post-traumatic stress disorder risk in refugees and migrants in Durban, South Africa, with specific focus on sexual trauma events among women.

Methods: Interviews were conducted on 157 consenting non-South African adults using a sociodemographic questionnaire, Life Events Checklist (documenting traumatic events experienced) and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (measuring post-traumatic symptomatology). Associations between total number of traumatic events and post-traumatic stress were explored using adjusted regression models.

Results: The results of one model indicated that greater numbers of traumatic life events experienced by women were associated with raised odds of post-traumatic stress disorder risk (β = 1.48; p < 0.001). Another model indicated that exposure to sexual trauma events were associated with greater odds of post-traumatic stress disorder risk (β = 4.09; p = 0.02).

Conclusion: Our findings highlight the critical importance of mental health service for females with history of sexual traumatic events for this vulnerable population.


Keywords

Refugees; South Africa; Posttraumatic stress

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