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Cityscape: Volume 18 Number 1 | Article 11


Contesting the Streets

Volume 18, Number 1

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Coercive Sexual Environments: Exploring the Linkages to Mental Health in Public Housing

Susan J. Popkin
Janine Zweig
Nan Astone
Reed Jordan
Urban Institute

Chantal Hailey
New York University

Leah Gordon
Oregon Health & Science University

Jay Silverman
University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Refereed Papers
Refereed papers that appear in Cityscape have undergone a thorough and timely double-blind review by highly qualified referees. The managing editor reviews submitted manuscripts or outlines of proposed papers to determine their suitability for inclusion in this section. To submit a manuscript or outline, send an e-mail to


Previous qualitative research from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing demonstration program suggested the positive effects on girls, and not boys, of moving out of poor neighborhoods may be related to girls’ reduced exposure to coercive sexual environments (CSEs). In this article, we use a new measure of CSE. Our aim is to test the hypothesis that living in a CSE is associated with poor mental health outcomes, especially for young women. Data for this study are from a survey of 124 adult and 79 youth respondents living in public housing in Washington, D.C. We found significant associations between perceptions of CSE among adults and exposure to CSE among youth with poor mental health. These results establish that the CSE appears to have an independent effect on mental health as the qualitative findings suggested. They point toward community-level interventions that aim to reduce the CSE in public housing and other poor communities.

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