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Understanding and Preventing Violence: Volume 4 - Consequences and Control
More recent studies provide evidence that these earlier estimates were within the correct order of magnitude for rape, but probably too low for other crimes.23 Wirtz and Harrell (1987) report that high levels of fear, anxiety, and stress persist in crime victims six months after their victimization. They found that physical assault victims (rape, domestic violence, and nondomestic assault) had higher levels of fear, anxiety, and stress than nonassault victims (robbery and burglary).
Kilpatrick et al. (1987) report on the results of extensive interviews with 391 adult females in the Charleston, S.C. area. They found that 27.8 percent of all crime victims experienced PTSD at some point in their lives following the criminal victimization, with rates varying from 11.1 percent for attempted molestation to 57.1 percent for completed rape. Aggravated assault victims reported a 36.8 percent PTSD rate, whereas robbery victims reported 18.2 percent.
Although this is one of the few studies that attempts to estimate the frequency of psychological injury for crimes other than rape, its usefulness is somewhat limited. First, it was a study only of female victims. This is of particular importance in attempting to assign frequency estimates to robbery and assault victims, because we do not know if male victims experience the same levels of psychological injury. There is some limited evidence, however, that elderly male victims of crime exhibit similar rates of fear as elderly female victims—at least in the short term (Berg and Johnson, 1979). Furthermore, Resick's (1987:472-473) preliminary results suggest that both female and male robbery victims report reactions similar to those of rape victims—although some differences are apparent.
Second, the study was not entirely representative of women in Charleston, let alone women in the United States. The "sample members were slightly younger, more likely to be white, and possessed slightly higher incomes than the Charleston County population" (Kilpatrick et al., 1987:483).
Finally, this study does not control for the underlying rate of PTSD and hence is not able to establish a causal connection between a criminal event and PTSD. It is possible, for example, that some of these PTSD episodes were (partially or totally) caused by other life events, such as loss of a family member. It is also possible that PTSD rates are higher after a second victimization (53.7 percent of the sample reported more than one victimization).
The Kilpatrick et al. (1987) study can be compared to the estimates