Polyvictimization and Substance Use Among Sexual Minority Cisgender Women

Athena D.F. Sherman, Andrea N. Cimino, Natasha S. Mendoza, Tara Noorani, Sarah Febres-Cordero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Violent victimization and substance use are higher among sexual minority cisgender women (SMCW) than heterosexual cisgender women. Unknown, however, is how polyvictimization—experiencing multiple types of violent victimization—affects substance use among SMCW. Purpose/Objectives: This study explores the relationship between polyvictimization and substance use among a small sample of SMCW. Methods: An exploratory secondary data analysis was conducted on data from a convenience sample of 115 SMCW currently in relationships (70.4% lesbian, 73.9% non-Hispanic white) via a cross-sectional survey. Lifetime physical, sexual, and crime-related violent victimization were measured via the Trauma History Questionnaire. Past-year substance use was measured via the Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-10). Mann-Whitney U testing and linear regression modeling were used to examine differences in substance use by victimization status (victimized/non-victimized) and the association between polyvictimization and substance use. Results: Lifetime prevalence of violent victimization was high with 60.9% of the sample reporting at least one type of victimization: 10.4% experienced physical, 22.6% experienced sexual, and 22.6% experienced crime-related violent victimization. Substance use was significantly greater for victimized participants than non-victimized participants. Modeling showed that as violent victimization increased by one unit, substance use scores increased by.30 units. Conclusion/Importance: Preliminary evidence suggests that increase in violent victimization was associated with increased substance use among SMCW. Findings indicate a need for additional confirmatory research with more representative samples and longitudinal data. Behavioral health practitioners are urged to consider the implications of these findings and assess for past cumulative violence and current risk of substance use disorder, to appropriately facilitate treatment planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • LGBT
  • SMW
  • assault
  • drug use
  • trauma
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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