Longitudinal Associations Between Sexual Victimization and Substance Misuse Among High School Youth in Colorado.J Interpers Violence. 2020 Sep 21 [Online ahead of print]JI
There are consistently high rates of sexual victimization and substance misuse among youth in the United States. Although there is a known relation between sexual victimization and substance use, there is a gap in the research regarding the magnitude and temporality of these associations. This study examined whether latent classes of sexual victimization and help-seeking attitudes longitudinally predict intentions of future substance misuse 7-10 months later. Students from nine Colorado high schools (N = 533; M = age 16 years) completed surveys across two consecutive school semesters. Latent class analysis was used to identify classes of students who experienced at least one form of sexual victimization (e.g., sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact) according to 13 sexual victimization items, and level of positive attitudes regarding help-seeking for sexual victimization. Classes were compared on demographic characteristics and for distal outcomes of likelihood of future substance misuse (cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis, prescription drugs, and electronic vaping products) using latent class regression, controlling for previous intentions to use. At Time 1, four classes of sexual victimization were identified with two main classes for comparison: low odds of experiencing sexual victimization (60.1% of sample) and high odds of endorsing all forms of sexual victimization (7.7% of sample). The high sexual victimization class had higher proportions of male and transgender students, compared to other classes. At Time 2 (7-10 months later), students in the high sexual victimization class reported a significantly greater likelihood of future cigarette (p = .017) and prescription drug misuse (p = .007) when compared to the low sexual victimization class. There was no evidence that having higher positive attitudes towards help-seeking resulted in lower intentions to use substances in the future. These findings highlight that addressing sexual violence in prevention programming may have crossover effects of reducing substance misuse and other forms of violence among youth.