Traumatic events such as rape cause both short-term and long-term stress reactions. Many people who experience long-term stress reactions continue to function at optimal levels. Those who are unable to function at a normal range or have difficulties in one or more areas may have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This bulletin discusses Rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD), a form of PTSD suffered by sexual assault and rape victims. For more information on PTSD, please refer to the bulletin “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.”
The four major symptoms of Rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder are:
Re-experiencing the trauma
Rape victims may experience uncontrollable intrusive thoughts about the rape, essentially unable to stop remembering the incident. Many rape victims have realistic nightmares and dreams about the actual rape. In addition, victims may relive the event through flashbacks, during which victims experience the traumatic event as if it was happening now. Additionally, victims are distressed by any event that symbolizes the trauma of rape. Victims avoid talking about the event and will avoid any stimuli or situations which remind them of the rape.
The second major RR-PTSD symptom for rape survivors is social withdrawal. It has been described as psychic numbing, denial and a feeling of being emotionally dead. They do not experience feelings of any kind. One way it shows up in the lives of survivors is a diminished interest in living. It is not that they are suicidal, but they have no interest in their children, in their jobs, and what feelings they do experience have a very narrow range. Victims experiencing RR-PTSD may not feel joy, pain, or really much of anything; many experience a kind of amnesia. In addition, victims with RR-PTSD may not remember the details of what happened to them.
Avoidance behaviors and actions
The third set of symptoms of RR-PTSD are avoidance behaviors and actions. Victims may experience a general tendency to avoid any thoughts, feelings, or cues which could bring up the catastrophic and most traumatizing elements of the rape. This may be characterized by refusing to drive near the spot where the rape occurred.
Increased physiological arousal characteristics
There may be an exaggerated startle response — hyper-alertness and hyper-vigilance — which requires that the victim pay attention to every sound and sight in their environment. Many experience sleep disorders which result in poor sleep patterns for chronic RR-PTSD victims, such as trouble falling or staying asleep. In addition, memory may be impaired, and many victims have difficulties concentrating, which affects tasks that must be completed in their daily lives. Victims may exhibit a kind of irritability, hostility, rage and anger that produce further isolation.
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.
For additional information, please contact:
National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center Department 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
Copyright 2009 by the National Center for Victims of Crime. This information may be freely distributed, provided that it is distributed free of charge, in its entirety and includes this copyright notice.
I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had @thesophiemonroe enter my life at the time she did. 2011 was a rough year for me and my ex losing her mind on Halloween put me close to my limit. But @thesophiemonroe’s support and love have helped me not only survive, but thrive during storm after storm. As hard as 2011 was, it’s all been worth it. Thank you. I love you dollie..
An excerpt from her response to the above statement; “I never threatened him. I tried to talk through some really confusing feelings because I was manic. But the person who I thought was my soulmate was too chicken shit to deal and turned what I said into a threat, even though I have never raised a hand to him. Too bad he made me homeless when I was unwell, making recovering even more difficult than it needed to be.. Then punished me for getting sick, ridiculing me for what happened, and canceling my health insurance before I was stable. You and that monstrous bitch deserve each other.
In a better world, the two people I was in a polyamorous relationship with, would have both been there to forgive me for getting unwell, and to love me while I put myself back together. Not kick me out, ostracize me, and make everything exponentially harder. Shame on you both”.
I have a lot I could say about what has happened over the last six months but I feel as though it would take a lifetime to pin point every inaccurate detail in almost everything she has said. It would be a waste anyhow, she will never accept responsibility for what she has done and continues to do. Will never admit that every action we have taken to protect ourselves has been directly related to the decisions, behaviors and choices she made.
I will however say this, abusers do not always have to be mean, angry, or overtly hostile ( although in this situation much of her abuse has been overtly hostile). In fact, mental abusers are so effective at what they do that they can abuse while shedding tears, and have everybody shame their targets. Covert and ambient abuse are terms that exist for a reason. Abusers can make it so that observing bystanders see the target as the abuser, and the abuser the “suffering soul.”
They cover their abusive behaviors by doing whatever it takes while still looking good to their friends. They need power and control over other people because, though it can be hidden, they have their own chaotic self-hate. They’re not in control of themselves, and they have no self-power. So they target those who are gaining power and control over themselves. When they’re revealed for what they are, that’s when they try to guilt trip to avoid having to hold themselves accountable for their actions and the effects their actions had on the people they abused. I have never witnessed anyone do this to such a degree before now.
The entire situation is sad. Tomorrow I will be posting a timeline of the actual events that took place, starting with photos of an attempt to break into my home and copies from texts and emails that clearly show the multiple death threats, attempted extortion, bulling and slander we have all endured. I will also post photos of the MANY attempts myself and the rest of the residents in this building have made to try and help her help herself even after she threatened to burn our home to the ground.
Oh, and to touch on the medical insurance issue, I do believe that was canceled after you told him you would report him for having you on there illegally after he refused to continue his relationship with you… Shot yourself in the foot there, ya?
Making threats and attempting to bully people into doing what you want doesn’t work. Ever. I hope, for your sake that someday at least part of this will sink in.
Until then please continue to get whatever help it is you need to avoid doing this to the next group of people you claim you “love”.
What my Wife and roommate has to say about what has happened over the last six months;
Being bipolar does not excuse bad behavior. It’s not a free pass to attempt to break into someones home or an excuse for daily threats and harassment. Refusing to take your meds for over 6 months and regularly self-medicating with illegal drugs is a choice. Cheating on your partner multiple times over the course of your relationship is a choice. Whether you like it or not YOU are responsible for your actions, not your mental illness.
Even if your behavior over the last 6 months were irrelevant, your significant other has the right to decide what’s best for them. Anyone can leave a relationship at any time if it is no longer mutually beneficial. Everyone has a right to a partner that is faithful, even in a polyamorous relationship, something you know firsthand. Caring about someone isn’t always enough to sustain a relationship.
But let’s be frank, drawing the line at threats of physical harm doesn’t make someone an asshole. Kicking in your neighbor’s doors in a drugged out rage and running up shocking credit card bills in your partners name are universally unacceptable. Your boyfriend is not required to be your babysitter/therapist because you chose not to take responsibility for your illness. We were issued restraining orders for a reason.
You alone made this bigger than a break up. For 6 months we have been silent despite your constant harassment. Despite you posting our names and address on the internet, spreading made up rumours about STDs as retaliation and disgusting “jokes” about rape. I won’t even try to articulate all the things you’ve said, because unlike you we are not interested in making a public spectacle.
Your “asshole ex” that’s “depriving you of your property” has been paying your storage bill for months as you well know. Please just get your things already. We all noticed your silence while you were distracted by your new relationship, and it’s just as obvious all your bitterness has returned now that it’s ended.
I can’t imagine how you expect to be able to share a space with an ex even in the best of circumstances, let alone in this situation. Especially when you made more than one sustained attempt to kick your neighbors door down while they were inside. Oh and the consistent death threats. A logical person would accept that their criminal actions have burned that bridge, but maybe if you can afford such a high rent all of a sudden you should pay back some of your debts.
This destructive cycle has repeated itself many times, and unfortunately that will probably continue. Somehow you are always the blameless victim, especially on the internet where the truth is what you make it. You insist your actions should have no consequences because you were sick, but at some point that isn’t good enough anymore.
“A relationship is two people. Two people that need to feel as though they have an equal stake in each other’s lives. I was not the right girl for him, and just because he needed me to be, doesn’t mean I had to be. There is a dangerous difference between supporting someone you love and enabling someone you love. Learning that difference and acting accordingly is the only way to engage in a healthy relationship with anyone, regardless of their mental or emotional state.”
“My daughter only stabilized on medication when we made it absolutely, crystal clear we could not, and would not, live any longer with the chaos brought into our home by the bipolar disorder.”
“There is a tendency in relationships affected by bipolar disorder for the illness to define itself in terms of problems with the relationship, when the problems actually arise in the illness and in the attempt the relationship makes to control, conceal or repair the damage done by extreme behavior. Bipolar relationships often resemble abusive ones. It is important for SOs to learn to distinguish behaviors that arise out of the illness from those that are part of our SO’s character.”
“The hardest part is learning that bipolar is not an excuse. I cannot control my actions sometimes, especially when I’m manic. In fact, sometimes I don’t even remember what it is I did. But just because I have something that is at times so debilitating does not mean I can use it as a leash to keep my loved ones captive. I have to love myself, as cliche as it sounds, and get help. I’ve been going through this same rollercoaster for years now, but there came a point where I realized I needed to take responsibility and get healthy.”
“As an independent sex prostitute (something that offers me a lot of privilege, as does being white, educated, and middle class) I get to decide whom to see, so during my sessions, we tend to explore queer sexuality. My sexuality, mind; most of my clients are straight men, or at least thought they were when we started! […] I expect them to challenge their assumptions of what makes male and female, what is appropriate and what isn’t. We discuss and explore power: who has it, and how, and why. I enjoy demonstrating that penetration is not a male act, or even something only men enjoy. I enjoy discussing sex, and gender and class. I like to help men in positions of power rethink femininity and feminism. My work is intellectually stimulating and challenging, and it uses my brainpower more than any other job I’ve had.”—Kitty Stryker: Some People Enjoy Being Prostitutes… Get Over It (via transformfeminism)
I’m a Professional Pervert, Devious Dominatrix and Femme Fatale.
I’m a sadistic, latex obsessed, forever traveling, control freak.
I’m a dreamer. A doer. A crafty Vixen.
I have an insatiable appetite when it comes to my work and am always looking to play in uncharted waters.
I work with women, men and couples. Love sessioning with “newbies” and seasoned veterans alike. At this time I’m also taking applications for a select few naughty bottoms who desire to serve, train, suffer under and worship Me on a more permanent basis.
Overnight or extended sessions are available. Traveling to other areas is considered on a case by case basis.
To petition for a private session contact Me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
My partners and I are currently engrossed in building out Our dream Dollhouse, Design Studio and Dungeon.
For information on how to book an unforgettable session with My wonderful wife Cherry Torn & I check out: http://dirtydollhouse.com/session or send an inquiry to: email@example.com