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Hollis BF, Kim N, Youk A, Dichter ME. Opportunities to More Comprehensively Assess Sexual Violence Experience in Veterans Health Administration Medical Records Data. Journal of general internal medicine. 2022 Sep 1; 37(Suppl 3):734-741.
INTRODUCTION: Experience of sexual violence (SV) is prevalent among the Veteran population and associated with many negative mental and physical health outcomes including suicidal behavior, obesity, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and poor sexual and reproductive functioning. Although Veterans of any gender may experience SV, women Veterans are particularly at risk. Research on SV among Veterans has focused primarily on the experience of SV during military service (military sexual trauma, MST), although Veterans may also experience SV prior to and following military service. The aim of the current study was to construct a more comprehensive method of identifying SV among Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients as documented in medical records in a national cohort of 325,907 Veterans who used VHA care between 2000 and 2018 in order to inform future research in this area. METHOD: We used three indicators to identify SV in VHA medical records: (a) the MST screen, (b) the sexual violence item of the intimate partner violence (IPV) screen, and (c) International Classification of Disorders (ICD) codes (versions 9 and 10) representing adult sexual abuse and assault. Univariate descriptive analyses were conducted to determine the exclusivity and overlap of the SV measures. RESULTS: The universal MST screen was the most commonly identified indicator of SV in the data. However, including the IPV and ICD indicators identified an additional 5% of Veterans who had experienced SV, accounting for thousands of patients. DISCUSSION: The results of the current study indicate that using the three-pronged approach of SV collection is a more comprehensive method of identifying patient SV experience through VHA medical records and contributes uniquely to the methodology of studying social factors'' impact on health care. Clinical screening and documentation of SV allow for the assessment of health impacts and trends through examination of medical records data.