Objectives: To audit the incidence of a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in women with diagnoses of drug and alcohol misuse disorders.
Method: A definition of CSA encompassing the US National Centre on Child Abuse and Neglect's definition of child sexual abuse was used. In the six month period of audit details of CSA were recorded from clinical data for all consecutive female new patients (n = 49) of the substance misuse service in St. Luke's Hospital, Armagh.
Results: Of the 49 new patients, information on childhood sexual abuse was available for 44 subjects. Sixteen (36.36%) of 44 had a positive history of CSA.
In 13 (81.25%) abuse occurred before the age of 16 years. Sexual intercourse was described by 50% and sexual contact by 50%. Only one patient had reported CSA to the police and only one patient had received counselling. There was a difference noted in the addiction profile of those with a history of CSA, 44% of this group had either alcohol dependence syndrome/harmful use of alcohol compared with 66% of the non-CSA group. The perpetrators were all male.
Conclusions: Our audit confirmed other work which showed a high incidence of childhood sexual abuse histories in addicted women. This is one of the areas which may not be properly addressed by conventional addiction treatment programmes, which are male centred and male dominated. It adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests adaptations must be made as increasing numbers of women present for addiction problems.