New York: Sexual violence in the neighborhood can harm the physical and mental health of women, a study says.
According to the researchers, feelings about the frequency of rape or other forms of sexual assault in a neighbourhood are significantly tied to women's perceptions of its safety.
"Feeling unsafe, especially in and around your home, can erode physical and mental health," said Dana M. Prince, co-author of the study and assistant professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.
"Our results could mean men are less aware of sexual violence, or perhaps they do not feel comfortable reporting that it makes them feel less safe -- perhaps both -- while women tend to be socialised early on to be aware of the possibility of sexual attack," Prince added.
The researchers noted that neighbourhoods play a key role in the behaviour and development of people, previous studies show and some conditions -- such as crime, segregation, poverty and disorder -- can have harmful effects on health.
For the study, published in the Journal of Community Psychology, researchers conducted interviews with nearly 350 adults in nine neighbourhoods in a major American city with high rates of poverty, unemployment and crime.
Participants were asked how often particular crimes occurred in their neighborhood in the past six months.
"Our results indicate that men can become more aware of how women feel about what contributes to and threatens their safety," the researcher said.
"Sexual and gendered violence affects all people and everyone can be partners in ending sexual violence," she added.