Sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress among African female refugees and migrants in South Africa

  • Mpho D. Mhlongo
  • Andrew Tomita
  • Lindokuhle Thela
  • Varsha Maharaj
  • Jonathan K. Burns


Background: While there is considerable research in developed countries on the nature and extent of post-traumatic stress among refugees and migrants, few report on female Africans migrating within Africa.

Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the association between exposure to traumatic life events and post-traumatic stress disorder risk in refugees and migrants in Durban, South Africa, with specific focus on sexual trauma events among women.

Methods: Interviews were conducted on 157 consenting non-South African adults using a sociodemographic questionnaire, Life Events Checklist (documenting traumatic events experienced) and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (measuring post-traumatic symptomatology). Associations between total number of traumatic events and post-traumatic stress were explored using adjusted regression models.

Results: The results of one model indicated that greater numbers of traumatic life events experienced by women were associated with raised odds of post-traumatic stress disorder risk (β = 1.48; p < 0.001). Another model indicated that exposure to sexual trauma events were associated with greater odds of post-traumatic stress disorder risk (β = 4.09; p = 0.02).

Conclusion: Our findings highlight the critical importance of mental health service for females with history of sexual traumatic events for this vulnerable population.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6786
print ISSN: 1608-9685