Childhood sexual victimization: Risk factor for drug use and sexual risk behaviors

Regina Jones Johnson, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The purpose of this dissertation was to survey men in the Harris County Jail (HCJ) to establish a more valid estimate of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) prevalence in a jailed-based population; to assess whether inmates with a history of CSA were at greater risk for use of drugs and alcohol and engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors than those without histories of childhood sexual abuse. The first study determined the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse among incarcerated males in a county jail. In this study, sixty-three percent of the subjects reported having been sexually abused. Sixty-one percent reported abuse pre-puberty and 10% reported abuse post puberty. In pre-puberty abuse the initiation of first abuse occurred at a mean age of 5.6 years (SD 5.096, range: 2–13 years). The second study explored the association between inmates with histories of CSA as a risk factor for sexual risk behaviors. A history of sexual abuse did not appear to be associated with an elevated risk of sexual risk behaviors. The third study explored a history of drug use and a history of CSA among the inmates. A chi-square test showed that the inmates who reported a history of CSA, was significantly greater for the following drugs: Marijuana (02), Crack (03), Heroin/Morphine (.03), Amphetamines/Speed (01), Downers/Barbiturates (.001), Methamphetamine/Crystal Meth (.001), Valium .02), LSD/Acid (.001), and Inhalants (.001), p < .05). Significance was not found in alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, Quaaludes and methadone. The research from this study provides empirical data supporting previous research. The current data shows that incarcerated inmates have a high prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and drug use. Sexual victimization as a child does not appear to be associated with an elevated risk of unsafe sexual behaviors. However, men who used drugs were twice as likely to have engaged in unprotected sex with casual and regular partners, and rarely used condoms with paid sex. Although our study methods do not permit a causal explanation for this association, we believe it is of concern. Finally, data in this study shows that sexually abused children are likely candidates for adult criminal behavior.

Subject Area

Public health|Preschool education

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Regina Jones, "Childhood sexual victimization: Risk factor for drug use and sexual risk behaviors" (2002). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3146401.