Determining factors in Recovery from Rape and Sexual assault

(Rape Trigger warning)

I was rather disturbed to read a recent newspaper article stating that certain sections of the police force in the UK had been encouraging rape victims to drop cases in order to keep statistics on the good side. READ.  This is horrifying and makes a mockery of the “serve and protect” stance taken by law enforcement.

Rape should never be encouraged and certainly not in these times where one cannot pick up a newspaper without reading about some vile act committed in one country or another. Anyone who has been raped,whether male or female will attest to the trauma experienced, the overpowering of will, the helplessness, the violation and the long, hard road to recovery. Some never recover (as I know from my clients) and spend their lives dealing with the ongoing effects of being attacked . So to have the very institution that is responsible for catching the offenders to allow them to walk free (and maybe do it again) is scandalous at best. I can only imagine how the victims are feeling…liked being raped again.

When rape occurs, recovery is difficult even if the victim is treated properly after the assault and how the victim is dealt with by police, hospitals, doctors and family and friends determine how long the recovery process is. Burgess and Holmstrem READ MORE studied 109 women who attended the Boston City Hospital in 1974 complaining of rape. They collected their data at the time of initial presentation at the hospital and again 3 months later. They documented the “rape trauma syndrome”.  They found two phases of adjustment following rape or attempted rape. They call these the acute phase and the long-term reorganisation phase, both of which are stress reactions to a life threatening situation.

Immediately following the rape they found that an equal number of women had an “expressed” style where they showed feelings of fear by crying, smiling, sobbing or a “controlled” style where the woman was calm and subdued. The primary emotion expressed by victims is one of fear. Most all say that they felt they were going to be killed or badly injured. They reported that in the reorganisation phase women develop increased motor activity, changing their jobs, home or lifestyle as a defensive reaction to the assault. Nightmares relating to the life threatening nature of the assault and the powerlessness and alienation are common. The development of phobic reactions to situations reminiscent of the rape also occur. Some mistrust of men with subsequent avoidance and hesitation, along with a variety of sexual difficulties may develop. Victims are often concerned about the effects of the rape on their close interpersonal relationships wondering how this will affect them.

Interestingly in the same report, the authors looked at the factors that determine a victim’s ability to cope and readjust after the attack. I quote directly from the report :

The way the woman is treated as a victim may also influence her ability to cope.

This includes treatment by:

1)  The police. Of necessity the police are required to question the victim thoroughly. If this is not explained to her she may perceive that she is not believed and this can reinforce feelings of guilt and self blame.

If she is unable to accurately describe her assailant or recall details of the attack, this may reinforce feelings of low self worth and inadequacy.

2) Hospital service.  If the victim is treated in an impersonal manner then the feelings of depersonalization are reinforced. If hospital staff offer judgement comments on her behaviour then feelings of guilt can be produced.

3) The courts. The above comments apply here as well. The cross examination can seem like a repeat of the rape experience.

4) The circumstances of the assault can affect the victim’s coping capacity.

Whilst a victim’s response to rape may follow a predictable pattern, each individual’s circumstances provide differences that will affect their coping capacity and reaction. The fact that a victim’s psychological adjustment to rape, is in part determined by the social systems that impinge upon them, indicates a need for a widespread community response to ensure that those systems are both responsive to victim’s needs, and used to their maximum therapeutic capacity and this includes the above mentioned police force.

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals,couples,  groups and companies globally. Online therapy is, in my experience, effective for treating a number of major conditions. Are you having issues that you need to talk through? I have a range of plans that can help you get the help you need.  Online Therapy details : Here …… Take advantage of the “online therapy” tester. Try the first three sessions for free. Contact me for more details.

 

  2 comments for “Determining factors in Recovery from Rape and Sexual assault

  1. August 5, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Reblogged this on innerlight and commented:
    Wow. I know I am posting a lot of articles these days, instead of writing; but they are so damn good. They are going in like vials of antidote.
    “The way the woman is treated as a victim may also influence her ability to cope. This includes treatment by:
    1) The police. Of necessity the police are required to question the victim thoroughly. If this is not explained to her she may perceive that she is not believed and this can reinforce feelings of guilt and self blame. If she is unable to accurately describe her assailant or recall details of the attack, this may reinforce feelings of low self worth and inadequacy.
    2) Hospital service. If the victim is treated in an impersonal manner then the feelings of depersonalization are reinforced. If hospital staff offer judgement comments on her behaviour then feelings of guilt can be produced.
    3) The courts. The above comments apply here as well. The cross examination can seem like a repeat of the rape experience.
    4) The circumstances of the assault can affect the victim’s coping capacity.

    Like

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