Sexual Assault Among Latinas (SALAS) Study

Research Summary

The Sexual Assault among Latinas (SALAS) Study adds to the literature by using a national sample of Latino women to determine the extent of interpersonal victimization alone and the overlap and the overlap among different forms of victimization. Additional distinguishing components of SALAS includes an investigation of formal and informal help-seeking responses; inclusion of culturally-relevant variables such as religiosity, gender role ideology and acculturation in relation to victimization and help-seeking; and assessing the psychosocial impact of victimization on psychological distress and posttraumatic symptomatology.

A national sample of 2,000 Latino women living in high-density Latino neighborhoods participated.  Trained professionals from an experienced survey research firm conducted interviews over the phone in either English or Spanish, from May through September 2008.  Respondents were queried about lifetime victimization, help-seeking efforts, acculturation, religiosity, gender role ideology, trauma symptoms, and posttraumatic symptoms.  

The lifetime rate of interpersonal victimization ranged from 22.2% for physical violence to 17.2% for sexual violence. Most importantly, 63.1% of victimized women experienced more than one victimization event.  The impact of these victimizations suggest that the multiple victimizations result in significant psychological distress above and beyond the impact of any single form of victimization, suggesting the need to expand the focus of victimization amount Latino women beyond sexual assault and partner violence. The research also shows that victimized women were unlikely to seek out formal help through the courts or police, with only 32.5% of women resorting to formal services. Most often, women sought informal help, with 68.9% of them resorting to friends or family for assistance.

For victimization, cultural factors seem to play a key role, with immigrant women and women with low levels of anglo-acculturation having lower rates of victimization. These results suggest that women who break from stereotypically traditional roles in the Latino community may be at a higher risk of being victimized.

This project was supported by Grant 2007-WG-BX-0051 awarded by the National Institute of Justice Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are thoes of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice

© Carlos Cuevas 2013