Resilience and Recovery from Rape Trauma

Jane Slomski November 30, 2007


• Rape is a pervasive medical, legal, psychological, and social problem • Affects people of all races, genders and SES • Survivors must make difficult decisions after the trauma, at a time when they are least psychologically equipped to do so • PTSD is common in rape survivors • Support from individuals, families, and communities is essential

Legal Definitions of Rape
• Virginia State Code 18.2-61:If any person has sexual intercourse with a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, or causes a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, to engage in sexual intercourse with any other person and such act is accomplished (i) against the complaining witness's will, by force, threat or intimidation of or against the complaining witness or another person; or (ii) through the use of the complaining witness's mental incapacity or physical helplessness; or (iii) with a child under age 13 as the victim, he or she shall be guilty of rape."

Labeling an Experience as Rape • Is labeling an experience as rape necessary for recovery? • Those who label their experience have greater incidence of PTSD symptoms/ long-term decreased physical and psychological wellbeing • Those who do not may experience less severe emotional reactions • Some argue, could be necessary for a survivor to fully “integrate” their experience

Labeling and Reporting
• Relationship between victim and perpetrator is key • Intimate partner rape is less likely to be reported than acquaintance or stranger rape • Belief in a “blitz” rape script • Amount of force/injury suffered in assault • Peer influence/ Acceptance of aggressiveness in sexual encounters • History of sexual victimization

Sociological Theories of Sexual Assault
• Social Disorganization
– Communities with decreased law enforcement presence, gangs, transient or temporary residents, and social decay have higher incidence of sexual assaults – Pazzani, (2007) found that social disorganization was not correlated with increase in assault

Feminist Theory
– Rape is a product of patriarchal values that give men power over women – Communities that value egalitarian roles of men and women have fewer incidents of sexual assault – Conservative Feminism: “ALL sexual intercourse can be considered coercive because males are generally stronger than females. “(??) – Pazanni found that egalitarian societies do have fewer incidents of assaults

Stranger vs. Acquaintance vs. Intimate Rape • Non-genital injuries characterized intimate partner assaults • Non-genital injuries are more severe in intimate partner rape than in acquaintance or stranger rape (Logan, et al, 2007) • Substance use most common in acquaintance rape
– Issues of safety/sobriety during typical “familiar” party rape, where women are likely to feel comfortable and make casual acquaintances

Characteristics of Offenders
• Typical psychological characteristics:
– – – – – – Poor intimacy skills Low self esteem Loneliness Inability to cope/cope with sex Lack of empathy Cognitive distortions Sexual offenders more likely to misinterpret social cues and perceive things in ways that justify their offenses. Rapists • Anger, retribution Child molesters • Sexual gratification, intimacy • Lower Self esteem than rapists

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Cognitive Distortions
– – –

Reasons for offending

Social Attitudes and Community Reactions
• • • Rape survivors must contend with reactions of family, friends, and society when they reveal their experience Fear being blamed, shamed, or ostracized Marital rape is perceived differently from other kinds of rape (Munge et al)
– “Less serious” in general – Responsibility is assumed using length of marriage and fidelity of the wife – Shorter marriage = less traumatic – Wife who commits adultery is more “responsible” for being raped than a wife who is faithful to her husband

Men’s Attitudes About Sexual Violence • Rape tactics common in 55-74% of college aged men • Sexually aggressive men consume more alcohol than non-aggressive men • Sexual violence correlated with rigid gender roles and stereotypes, psychopathology, and sensation seeking behaviors, past history of sexual violence, and hypermasculine attitudes

Coping With Rape: Disclosing the Experience
• Women are more likely to disclose first to informal supports (friends, family) than formal supports (police, medical professionals) Positive reactions of support persons (empathy, belief, understanding, offers of physical and emotional support) promote healing and resiliency in survivors Negative reactions (blame, anger, indifference) increase psychological trauma, likelihood of PTSD may revictimize the survivor Acute Stress Disorder is more likely to advance to full PTSD

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

• •

Extremely common reaction to sexual assault Symptoms:
– Hypervigilance, anxiety, depression, panic – Sleep difficulty, flashbacks – Difficulty with personal and intimate relationships, sexual dysfunction

Assault severity, offender violence, severity of sexual acts, and physical injury, selfblame, multiple victimizations, and avoidance coping are highly correlated with PTSD As assault severity increases, survivors may be less likely to blame themselves and more likely to label it as rape

Avoidance Coping
• Natural coping mechanism that occurs immediately following rape
– Denial, suppression- avoid stressful thoughts – Person feels overwhelmed, lacks sufficient resources to deal with trauma – May be healthy way of dealing with acute trauma; but can be maladaptive in the long-term – Approach coping more healthy for longterm processing of trauma: therapeutic interventions, talking about experience, accepting lack of control in situation

World Views and Schemas
• • • • Rape alters a person’s view of the world and their personal schemas Assimilation: integrate rape as something that “just happened”; does not appear to alter behavior of survivor Accommodation: Change schemas and world views to include experience of rape; but do not let it “take over” their lives Over-accommodation: World/people are now “all bad,” threat, evil is everywhere. Survivor can no longer trust anyone
– Common in acute phases, but maladaptive in long-term

• Attachment Theory: Adult women who have secure relationships with their parents are more resilient and able to cope; due to confidence in social support and certainty of resources
– Less severe ASD and PTSD symptoms

Insecure adults are less able to cope: No basis for security; not able to identify or use resources available to them; no social support Overall, social support, availability of emotional and physical resources, and positive reactions of formal support systems insure higher resilience

Agency Responses to Rape
• Ullman & Townsend (2007), Workers identified largest problems with agency response:
– Denial of the problem of rape – Racism, sexism, societal attitudes – Lack of funding, poor salaries for workers – High turnover, burnout – Professionalism/Standardization • Anti-feminist attitudes – Lack of availability/accessibility of resources and services

• • • • • • • • Fairfax County Victim and Witness Assistance Program (703) 264-2141 Northern Virginia Family Service Fairfax County Adult Protective Services and Child Protective Services (703) 324-7450/ (703) 324-7400 Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-838-8238 Violence Intervention Program 703-228-1550 DC Rape Crisis Center 202-333-RAPE Men Can Stop Rape (202) 265-6530 Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. (703) 533-5651

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Ahrens, C., Campbell, R., Ternier-Thames, N., Wasco, S., & Sefl, T. (2007, March). Deciding whom to tell: Expectations and outcomes of rape survivors' first disclosures. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31(1), 38-49. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Boykins, A., & Mynatt, S. (2007, August). Assault history and follow-up contact of women survivors of recent sexual assault. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 28(8), 867-881. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Brown, J., Hamilton, C., & O'Neill, D. (2007, August). Characteristics associated with rape attrition and the role played by skepticism or legal rationality by investigators and prosecutors. Psychology, Crime & Law, 13(4), 355-370. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database Hauck, S., Schestatsky, S., Terra, L., Kruel, L., & Ceitlin, L. (2007, January). Parental bonding and emotional response to trauma: A study of rape victims. Psychotherapy Research, 17(1), 83-90. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Littleton, H. (2007, August). An evaluation of the coping patterns of rape victims: Integration with a schemabased information-processing model. Violence Against Women, 13(8), 789-801. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Littleton, H., & Breitkopf, C. (2006, March). Coping with the experience of rape. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30(1), 106-116. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Logan, T., Cole, J., & Capillo, A. (2007, August). Differential characteristics of intimate partner, acquaintance, and stranger rape survivors examined by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(8), 1066-1076. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Mann, R., & Hollin, C. (2007, March). Sexual offender's explanations for their offending. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 13(1), 3-9. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. McMullin, D., & White, J. (2006, March). Long-term effects of labeling a rape experience. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30(1), 96-105. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Munge, B., Pomerantz, A., Pettibone, J., & Falconer, J. (2007, October). The influence of length of marriage and fidelity status on perception of marital rape. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(10), 1332-1339. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Pazzani, L. (2007, July). The factors affecting sexual assaults committed by strangers and acquaintances. Violence Against Women, 13(7), 717-749. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Pervan, S., & Hunter, M. (2007). Cognitive distortions and social self-esteem in sexual offenders. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 3(1), 75-91. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Ullman, S., & Townsend, S. (2007, April). Barriers to working with sexual assault survivors: A qualitative study of rape crisis center workers. Violence Against Women, 13(4), 412-443. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Ullman, S., Townsend, S., Filipas, H., & Starzynski, L. (2007, March). Structural models of the relations of assault severity, social support, avoidance coping, self-blame, and PTSD among sexual assault survivors. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31(1), 23-37. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database. Virginia State Code 18.2-61: Rape Warkentin, J., & Gidycz, C. (2007, July). The use and acceptance of sexually aggressive tactics in college men. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(7), 829-850. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from PsycINFO database.