Restoring the Soul after Sexual Trauma

Social Worker Resource
July 22, 2013 — 2,185 views  
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Sexual violence such as rape or attempted rape can be extremely traumatic to the victims whose psychological impacts may last from days to even years. How long the impact remains depend on the circumstances and nature of violence, the psychological constitution of the victim, and the care they receive.

Impact of Sexual Trauma

There are several impacts of trauma on victims of sexual assault and rape. Some of the impacts include depression, flashbacks, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and bad memories. Depression is expressed in the form of crying spells and sadness, persistent fatigue, change in the pattern of sleep, social withdrawal, pessimism, aches, anxiety, indecisiveness, as well as suicidal thoughts.

Memories of any past trauma come to an individual’s mind as flashbacks, experienced through overwhelming emotions, images, sounds, smells, dreams, and sensations. These thoughts blur the line between the past and present, leaving the individual powerless and scared. While some flashbacks are brief and mild, others are severe and persistent.

There can be three phases to the trauma – acute phase, outward adjustment phase, and PTSD. The acute phase may prolong from few days to a few weeks. In the acute phase, the victim can become emotional or may react with a strong sense of disorientation.   

The outward adjustment phase appears normal externally, but the victim is still suffering internally. There are several coping strategies expressed during this phase such as:

  • Minimization (victim pretends everything is fine)
  • Dramatization (victim cannot stop thinking and discussing about the trauma)
  • Suppression (victim refuses to discuss)
  • Explanation (analysis of the accident)
  • Flight (various strategies to escape the pain) also known as post traumatic stress disorder

Getting out of the Trauma

If the victim of sexual trauma experiences prolonged depression for over two weeks, immediate medical attention must be given to the victim. Additionally, if the depression shows at least five or more symptoms among crying spells and sadness, persistent fatigue, change in the pattern of sleep, social withdrawal, pessimism, pains, anxiety, indecisiveness, as well as suicidal thoughts, medical assistance must be provided to the victim to get over the trauma.

Depression can affect any individual of any age, gender, race, as well as culture and follows its own cycle of recovery. However, when depression begins to show abnormal symptoms over a long period of time the victim needs to get medical help. The healing process goes through three phases – acute, adjustment, and the resolution phase. Under the resolution phase, which is the last phase, assault does not remain the central focus. While pain and trauma diminish over time, the sexual assault itself comes as a bad memory while you move ahead in life. 

In several cases of trauma, post traumatic stress disorder is experienced as a normal reaction to a traumatic event. However, traumatic experiences can be healed with appropriate social and psychological assistance. 

Sexual assault recovery damages the mind and soul, rather than the body so the healing requires time and patience. The process of healing and recovery goes through different stages. Friends and family members can play a critical role in helping the victim come to terms with reality and lead a normal life.

Social Worker Resource