IMPACT
08/11/2014 05:25 pm ET Updated Aug 11, 2014

These Often-Invisible Women Experience Sexual Assault At An Alarming Rate

Katrina Brown via Getty Images

A new study reflects a troubling reality regarding sexual assault on Skid Row.

The Downtown Women's Action Coalition, which aims to improve housing services for women, found that about half of all homeless women living in the downtown Los Angeles area have experienced sexual assault -- a rate 2.5 times greater than that of women nationwide. The disproportionate rate, the study claims, exemplifies the chronic effects of violence against women.

The survey, which researched the experiences and backgrounds of 324 women, also found the makeup of female Skid Row residents is increasingly comprised of racial minorities and older women, as NBC4 News reported. While the study points to factors contributing to homelessness such as job loss and mental illness, it also highlighted intersecting issues that particularly affect women, including domestic violence and sexism.

The survey found the largest barrier to stable housing was affordability. When women were asked about the cause of their homelessness, about 31 percent of them cited a lack of income and roughly 28 percent cited long waiting lists to take advantage of affordable housing services, which already impose constraints on some families in need.

"It’s tough for married couples," one survey respondent told the coalition. "They don’t allow married couples to stay together or allow their children to be with them. There’s no safe place for pregnant women."

While challenges remain in the fight against homelessness in Los Angeles, the city has upped its efforts to combat the crisis. Last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti accepted Michelle Obama's challenge to rid L.A. of veteran homelessness within the next two years, and officials have committed to increases in Skid Row cleanups and more accessible mental health services for the city's homeless, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month.

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