Did you know that rape is a crime considered to be one of the most emotionally and psychologically damaging to its victims? The only crime that rates higher in total damage is homicide. Every year tens of thousands of women and men are raped in America. It is a savage crime that impairs the physical, mental and social health of its victims. Not only is the attack often brutal, thus causing physical damage, but the fear of unwanted pregnancy, AIDS, venereal disease, and other infections lurks in the darkness. However, none of these consequences hold a candle to the mental damage that is left behind after such an attack.
The psychological symptoms are called “the rape trauma syndrome.”
The Shock Phase
This is the first stage a rape victim will often go through. It can last a few days to many weeks. This phase is riddled with anxiety, distress, horror, terror, guilt, self- blame, and often self-hatred. Trust in judgment is lost, as is trust in others. Insomnia, depression, lack of interest in food, nightmares, petulance, headaches, stomach issues and other health related illnesses may manifest. These can become chronic if the person who has been traumatized does not seek help.
The Adjustment Phase
Part two of the rape trauma syndrome comes within a few days or weeks depending on the amount of emotional damage that was inflicted upon the victim. Often during this phase the victim loses interest in looking for help, and no longer wants to discuss the event. Some things that may occur: change of job, phone number, reorganization of her or his life, less stress, and fewer nightmares. At the six week mark, testing will need to be done for pregnancy and any sexually transmitted diseases.
The Integration Phase
The third and final phase causes the victim to retract from connection with other people. Often a rape victim’s outlook on life has been permanently altered. Sometimes during this phase, the depression returns. A staggering 19% of rape victims will attempt suicide. Others will manifest emotional or physical illnesses.
Rape in the Military
A crisis of military sexual assault has come to the attention of the Pentagon and the White House. Approximately 26,000 servicemen and women reported unwanted sexual contact last year. In 2012, more than 85,000 veterans were given treatment for injuries sustained from some form of sexual abuse. Often the victims are plagued with post-traumatic stress disorder, physical ailments, depression and high levels of anxiety. The Department of Veterans Affairs states that one in five women, and one in one hundred men suffer from military sexual trauma.
The real tragedy is that most cases of sexual assault in the military go undocumented. This is because, unlike the civilian world, the reports are submitted to the higher level commanders who have been known to brush these crimes under the rug, or even overturn convictions. Also, many times the victims and or their families are threatened with bodily injury and sometimes death by the perpetrators.
If you would like to know more about the little discussed topic of rape in the military, please join us for an important screening of, The Invisible War on June 4, 2013. Go to the home page of this website to acquire your special invitation!