Recently a young woman came into counseling complaining of sleeplessness and anxiety. She described having an upsurge of deeply upsetting memories of a terrible incident that occurred when she was seventeen years old. She had been raped by an “acquaintance” on a date. She never told anyone what happened. She just wanted to forget it happened and go on with her life.

Rape is called the “most underreported violent crime in America.” A rape is reported about once every five minutes. It is believed that one in six women have been raped. Only 16% of rapes are reported to the police. According to the National Victims Center, 82% are acquaintance rapes and 18% stranger rapes. 83% of reported rapes occur to victims under the age of 25. Rapes occur to males and females, children or adults.

The story above contains several key elements of Rape Trauma. Rape Trauma is a devastating emotional injury with predictable acute reactions that include shock, disbelief, disruptive flashbacks, intense fears for personal safety, and overwhelming feelings of shame, anger, depression, sadness and anxiety. Sleep and appetite disturbances, headaches and stomachaches and other somatic reactions often occur. Some symptoms can endure and influence overall functioning, relationships and life choices. Intense symptoms can return following an incident that re-evokes the initial traumatic experience – fear for one’s life.

For many rape survivors, recall of the rape can become distant, but feelings of fear, shame, anger and self-blame can persist for years. In the case of this young woman, she had few close relationships and channeled most of her time and energy into competitive sports, especially running. While she spent years running races, emotionally she couldn’t run away from what had happened.

The good news is that focused treatment is effective. As with the young woman mentioned above, treatment can be very successful to resolve misunderstood emotional issues and decrease active symptoms. If an assault is recent, treatment can be effective in preventing negative long-term changes in emotional functioning and life choices. But even if the assault happened many years ago, treatment can assist the victim to resolve and release feelings of self-blame and shame and live a more productive and happier life.

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Author's Bio: 

Patricia Opper, MSW, LCSW
I-25 and Colorado Boulevard
and Englewood, CO 80210
303-382-3994 - Office