Violated and vulnerable: women's experiences of contracting a sexually transmitted infection from a male partner

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2017, 26 (15-16), pp. 2342 - 2352
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© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Aims and objectives: To explore women's stories of contracting a sexually transmitted infection from a male partner and elucidate the gendered constructs and violence experienced that made the women vulnerable to these infections. Background: Violence against women can result in both physical and psychological consequences and expose women to multiple health risks including sexual health adversity. Design: Feminist storytelling approach. Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 women. All data underwent thematic analysis. Findings: Findings from this study revealed the women were vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted infection/s from their male sexual partners as a result of unequal gender and abusive relationship dynamics. Subsequently, contracting a sexual infection within this context potentially increased their vulnerability in both current and future relationships, through their loss of self-confidence and perceived ability to have a trusting loving heterosexual relationship as women with sexually transmitted infection/s. Conclusion: Women in relationships in which they are subordinate to their male partner are at heightened risk of sexual health adversity, including contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Contracting a sexually transmitted infection within the context of an abusive relationship can further increase women's vulnerability to dominant male partners, thus further exposure to sexual risk and adversity. Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses working in clinical settings are well placed to conduct opportunistic screening of women's sexual health, including assessment of sexually transmitted infections and the nature of the encounter in which they were contracted. Thorough assessment can potentially identify relationship and personal factors that can increase a woman's risk to both sexual adversity and forms of abuse. Also, if women do divulge that they have suffered abuse, nurses are positioned to provide support and guidance in implementing strategies to minimise risk as well as referring them to specialised services.
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