Saturday, 19 January 2013

Emedinews:Insights on Medicolegal Issues:What is rape trauma syndrome?

  • Rape trauma syndrome describes that rape survivors go through fear experienced during a sexual assault particularly violent sexual assault. Each victim has their own experience; but there are common characteristics the victims possess. These characteristics are the direct result of the fear inherent in sexual assault.
  • The acute phase lasts from a few days to a few weeks after an assault. It is a response to a complete disruption of one’s life and the humiliating experience of being sexually assaulted. The acute phase produces as many responses as there are survivors. Some survivors may cry, others may laugh, and still others may be completely silent. It is important that there is no "wrong" way to cope with the immediate after effects of sexual trauma. During the acute phase, survivors may feel disbelief or in some way frozen. It has also been described as if survivors "left their body," forever being unable to reconnect with the woman or man who was raped. Survivors may feel humiliated, confused, dirty, ashamed, or in some way at fault for the assault; especially in the case where the assailant was an acquaintance. Physical concerns may arise during the acute phase as well. These concerns may be the direct result of the assault or fear of the possible physical ramifications of the assault i.e. pregnancy or STDs.
  • Following the acute phase is the Reorganization Phase where the survivor attempts to reorganize her life. This phase invites a myriad of emotions such as fear, anxiety, denial, and most of all the loss of security. The shattering of security as well as trust is inherent in sexual assault. This loss of the fundamental need for security wreaks havoc on the survivor’s life. The feeling of being unsafe looms over the survivor causing a heightened state of anxiety, difficulty with intimate relationships, and overcautious such as constantly checking one’s surroundings.
  • Chronic reactions to sexual assault include the inability to find peace at the level of soul. Sexual assault can change the individual forever as well as the world as they know it. The end result is a constant state of turmoil in thought process. At times, the survivor may not even recognize what is happening within. Sexual assault causes the body to be an unfriendly environment leading the survivor to at times feel dirty and ashamed. These feelings cause the individual to disconnect from their body entirely. Without a connection to their body, the survivor is unable to listen to internal states which assist her in navigating through the world. This contributes to a feeling inherent in many survivors, the feeling of being "lost." The patient needs close monitoring/treatment by doctor and counselors.

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