Join the forums to heal from rape and sexual abuse
After Silence Home Learn More About After Silence Join the forums for rape  and sexual abuse survivors and victims Testimonials from members of the support forum rape and sexual abuse survivors message board and chat room Aftermath Speak Resources Support After Silence Contact After Silence Site Map en espanol

RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE

"One year ago, I locked my door and went to sleep; like we all do on any given night. Unfortunately, this night was like no other before and was one I will never be able to forget. I woke up that night to a co-worker who had undressed himself, crawled into my bed and raped me. "
Kathleen, rape survivor

Rape is a crime, talking about it isn't. SPEAK.

visit the Facebook page for activism and awareness on rape and sexual abuse

Rape Trauma Syndrome

        In 1972 Burgess and Holmstrom embarked on a study of the psychological effects of rape, and arranged to be on call day or night in order to interview and counsel any rape victim who came to the emergency room of Boston City Hospital. They observed a pattern of psychological reactions, which they called Rape Trauma Syndrome. Rape trauma syndrome, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, was first described in 1974 as a condition affecting female survivors of sexual assault, both adult and children. The syndrome includes the physical, emotional and behavioral reactions that occur as a result of the encounter with a life-threatening event.

          Professor of Nursing Ann Burgess and Professor of Sociology Dr. Larry Holmstrom at Boston College, who specialize in the research and treatment of sexual violence, initially coined the term Rape Trauma Syndrome. Burgess and Holmstrom noted that women experienced rape as a life-threatening event, having generally feared mutilation and death during the assault. They remarked that in the aftermath of rape, victims complained of insomnia, nausea, startle responses, and nightmares, as well as dissociative or numbing symptoms. They also commented that while some of the victims’ symptoms resembled those previously described in combat veterans, rape and sexual assault survivors underwent unique issues during the aftermath of the assault.

        The rape trauma syndrome is divided into two phases, which can disrupt the physical, psychological, social or sexual aspects of a victim's life. The acute or disruptive phase can last from days to weeks and is characterized by general stress response symptoms. During the second phase - the long-term process of reorganization -- the victim has the recovery task of restoring order to her lifestyle and re-establishing a sense of control in the world. This phase is characterized by rape-related symptoms and can last from months to years.

        The early conceptualizations of the stress response patterns of rape victims are consistent with the diagnostic criteria of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) of the DSM-4th within the major category of Anxiety Disorders. Burgess and Holmstrom present the only description in the literature of the manifestations of rape trauma in children and adolescents. In general, the Rape Trauma Syndrome manifests itself similarly in children, adolescents, and adults. The differences are consistent with the developmental stage of the young victim, and the alternate affective and behavioral modes by which a youngster responds to stress. Thus, nausea, vomiting, and bedwetting may occur along with the spectrum of life-pattern disruption seen in adults. In addition to reacting to the threat to a life, feelings of embarrassment can be prominent, especially in adolescent victims. Many of the concerns of children and adolescents focused on how the event would affect them at school and the anticipated reactions of their peer group.

        Nowadays, the Rape Trauma Syndrome is an accepted psychiatric condition since more and more often psychiatrists and psychologists assist in the acquisition of skills necessary for taking an adequate history and assessing the victim's emotional state and ego functioning so that optimal treatment planning can occur.

© 2007 After Silence - This article may not be reprinted or reproduced without express permission.


This site is offered for support of other rape and sexual abuse survivors. It is not meant to be a substitute for any kind of professional help.
If you are in a crisis situation we urge to contact your local rape crisis center or health care professional.

Home I About I Join Us I Testimonials I Message Board & Chat Room I Aftermath I Rape and Sexual Abuse I Male Survivors
Date Rape Drugs I Recovering from Rape and Sexual Abuse I Speak
Resources I Support Us I Contact Us

SiteMap I Terms of Service I Privacy Policy I Internet Safety

After Silence © Copyright 2003-2011 All Rights Reserved.