The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of measuring stress hormones and immunity following rape. The long-term goal is to evaluate the predictive value of stress-immune-inflammatory responses to later health outcomes. Fifteen women reporting rape were compared with 16 control participants. Serum stress hormones, proinflammatory cytokines, acute phase proteins, functional assays, and lymphocyte subsets were measured in blood samples. Women reporting rape had higher cytotoxic cells, lower B lymphocyte counts, higher proinflammatory biomarkers, and decreased lymphocyte proliferation compared to the control group. This finding suggests that rape produces activation of the innate immunity and suppression of some aspects of adaptive immunity. If these immune changes persist, they may contribute to the pathophysiology of long-term health sequelae by provoking chronic inflammation and decreased cellular immunocompetence.
Groer, M.W., Thomas, S.P., Evans, G.W., & Helton, S. (2006). Inflammatory and immune system correlates of rape. Violence and Victims, 21, 796-808.