Rape-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Four Major Symptoms of Rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Works Cited
- Additional information
- In 2006, victims age 12 or older experienced 272,350 rapes or sexual assaults. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008).
- 89% of rape or sexual assault victims in 2006 were female with 31% assaulted by strangers; 44% were friends or acquaintances of their victims, and 21% were intimate partners. (Ibid).
- American Indian and Alaskan Native women are almost three times as likely to experience rape or sexual assault as white, African American, or Asian American women. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008).
- Nearly one-third of all rape victims develop Rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD) sometime during their lifetimes, and more than eleven percent still suffers from it (National Center for Victims of Crime & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992).
Re-experiencing the trauma
event and will avoid any stimuli or situations which remind them of the rape.
Avoidance behaviors and actions
Increased physiological arousal characteristics
Some disturbing new research indicates that certain physiological changes in the brain may be permanent conditions. Some survivors with RR-PTSD are unable to accurately gauge the passage of time. Consequently, they are likely to show up for appointments late, early, or not at all. Another possible permanent side effect is a kind of tunnel vision. Victims may be unable to see the “big picture” which results in difficulty distinguishing between a little crisis and a big crisis. Therefore, all events in their lives are viewed as crises.
In Rape in America: A Report to the Nation, a widely-cited study by the National Center for Victims of Crime and the Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 13 percent of American women surveyed had been raped and 31 percent of theses rape victims developed RR-PTSD. The study showed that with 683,000 women raped each year in this country, approximately 211,000 will develop RR-PTSD each year. In their attempts to cope with RR-PTSD symptoms, many victims may develop major depression. Rape victims are three times more likely than non-victims of crime to have a major depression episode. Rape victims are 4.1 times more likely than non-crime victims to contemplate suicide. In fact, 13 percent of all rape victims actually attempt suicide, which confirms the devastating and potentially life threatening mental health impact of rape.
In attempting to cope with the above symptoms, drug and alcohol consumption are likely to be companions in the victim’s attempt to gain relief from these symptoms. RIA found that, compared to non-victims of crime, rape victims are:
- 13.4 times more likely to have two or more major alcohol problems; and
- Twenty-six times more likely to have two or more major serious drug abuse problems.
With a growing body of knowledge about RR-PTSD, help is available through most rape crisis and trauma centers. Support groups have been established where survivors can meet regularly to share experiences to help relieve the symptoms of RR-PTSD. For some survivors, medication prescribed along with therapy is the best combination to relieve the pain. Just as in the treatment of any other illness, at the first opportunity, the individual should be encouraged to talk about the traumatic experience. This ventilating provides a chance to receive needed support and comforting as well as an opportunity to begin to make sense of the experience (Allen). “To diminish symptoms of PTSD, you must work on two fronts- coming to terms with the past and alleviating stress in the present (Allen).” In addition, violence-related trauma affects not only direct victims, but those who care deeply about them.
National Center for Victims of Crime & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center. (1992). Rape in
American: A Report to the Nation. Arlington, VA: National Center for Victims of Crime.
Ringel, Cheryl. (1997). Criminal Victimization…Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.
Allen, Jon. (1995). Coping with Trauma: A Guide to Self-Understanding. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Figley, Charles R. (1992). “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Part 1.” Violence Update, 2(7): 1, p.8-9.
Harvey, Mary & Judith Herman. (1992). “The Trauma of Sexual Victimization: Feminist Contributions to Theory, Research, and Practice.” PTSD Research Quarterly, 3(3): 1-3.
National Crime Victims Research and Treatment CenterDepartment of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Medical University of South Carolina
165 Cannon Street, MSC852
Charleston, SC 29425-0742
Administrative Phone: (843) 792-2945
Clinic Phone: (843) 792-8209
Center for Women’s Policy Studies
1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, #450
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: (202) 872-1770
Rape Abuse & Incest National Network
24 Hour hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE
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