Actual and perceived safety of male and female in-patients in an inner-city psychiatric hospital were examined. Using semi-structured interviews, 59 inpatients were asked to report on their direct experiences of physical or sexually threatening behaviour towards them during their admission. Of the sample, 75% reported unwanted physical or sexual experiences: female patients were significantly more likely than males to report sexual harassment. Most incidents were not reported to staff and both staff and patients appeared to perceive the ward environment as safe despite fairly high levels of verbal and physical aggression. This study has implications for the way that ‘violent incidents' in psychiatric hospitals are defined and recorded and raises questions about the provision of women-only space in hospitals.
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