Associations Between Youth Homelessness, Sexual Offenses, Sexual Victimization, and Sexual Risk Behaviors: A Systematic Literature Review

Heerde, Jessica; Scholes-Balog, Kirsty; Hemphill, Sheryl
January 2015
Archives of Sexual Behavior;Jan2015, Vol. 44 Issue 1, p181
Academic Journal
Homeless youth commonly report engaging in sexual risk behaviors. These vulnerable young people also frequently report being sexually victimized. This systematic review collates, summarizes, and appraises published studies of youth investigating relationships between homelessness, perpetration of sexual offenses, experience of sexual victimization, and engagement in sexual risk behavior. A systematic search of seventeen psychology, health, and social science electronic databases was conducted. Search terms included 'homeless*,' 'youth,' 'offend*,' 'victimization,' 'crime,' 'rape,' 'victim*,' and 'sex crimes.' Thirty-eight studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria. Findings showed homeless youth commonly report being raped and sexually assaulted, fear being sexually victimized, and engage in street prostitution and survival sex. Rates of victimization and sexual risk behavior were generally higher for females. Given the paucity of longitudinal studies and limitations of current studies, it is unclear whether homelessness is prospectively associated with sexual victimization or engagement in sexual risk behavior, and whether such associations vary cross nationally and as a function of time and place. Future prospective research examining the influence of the situational context of homelessness is necessary to develop a better understanding of how homelessness influences the perpetration of sexual offenses, experience of sexual victimization, and engagement in sexual risk behavior among homeless youth.


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