Sexual Assault and PTSD by Laura OBrien
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Sexual Assault and PTSD by Laura OBrien



Sexual Assault and PTSD

Sexual Assault and PTSD
Argosy University



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  • Having gathered peer-reviewed research containing empirical statistics, not one article was found that negates the concept that sexual assault and PTSD are related. In fact, the more recent the studies, the findings seem to relate PTSD as a result as opposed to simply naming some of the symptoms, such as depression. “ Across all types of abuse, women were more than twice as likely to develop PTSD as men. The sex difference was greatest among sexual abuse victims. Female victims' greater revictimization explained a substantial proportion (39%) of the sex differences in PTSD risk ” (Koenen & Windom, 2009).
  • General psychological distress is the most commonly examined outcome of abuse found in the coping literature, followed closely by psychosocial outcomes such as PTSD, dissociation, depression, and interpersonal problems including sexual dysfunction and revictimization as discussed in the research article “ Psychotic Experiences in People who have been Sexually Assaulted” by Kilcommons, Morrison, Knight, & Lobban (2008) which closely ties sexual assault and PTSD.
  • Further developing studies on children may benefit their healing process and help to avoid dysfunctional personal perceptions as they grow older, and, if recognized early enough, can spare triggering trauma responses that may last a life time until recovery steps are taken.
  • This study is particularly tuned into the theory of childhood sexual assault (CSA) and adult revictimitzation. Coping strategies of children are known to be resilient, but are not alike in all children, so the degree of the abuse and the individual child, as a victim, are extremely relevant. Fortier et al (2009) sought to prove coping strategies are amenable to change and thus represent viable targets for intervention among individuals dealing with the negative effects, such as PTSD, of abuse. Coping strategies used by individuals during childhood included attempts to stop the abuse, avoidance, psychological escape, and compensation, while adult strategies involved breaking away from the past, cognitive coping, self-discovery, and revisiting the past.
  • It is recognized more research is needed in the area of men/boys and sexual assault. There are few studies regarding the victimization of males, such as written by Moore (2006), and Spencer & Dunklee (1986), as opposed to the plethora found regarding women/girls. However, Koenen and Widom (2009) propose that women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD as previously mentioned. Their assertion comes from documented reported childhood sexual abuse: girls have a higher history than boys of sexual victimization, sexual assault and rape. Their studies show over 20% of men and over 40% of women met lifetime criteria for PTSD relating to childhood sexual abuse.
  • In conclusion, future research questions would be two-fold; one would broaden the scope of studies to include males. There are studies that acknowledge that those who have survived sexual assault, as a child will go on to become an abuser (Moore, 2006). In addition, further developing studies on children may benefit their healing process and help to avoid dysfunctional personal perceptions as they grow older, and if recognized early enough can spare triggering a trauma response that may last a life time until recovery steps are taken. However, studies relate that more men are abusers than women, therefore a hypothesis would be women will “a c t in ” by becoming depressed and suffering from PTSD, and men will “a c t out ” and victimize as a means to deal with their trauma which needs to be studied more fully with greater detail.

Sexual Assault and PTSD by Laura OBrien Sexual Assault and PTSD by Laura OBrien Presentation Transcript

  • Sexual Assault and PTSD Laura A. O’Brien Argosy University
  • Abstract
    • This presentation will correlate sexual assault and posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
    • It will show regardless of the age or gender of the survivor, trauma does occur.
    • The extent of this trauma, in most cases, leads to PTSD.
    • In a very few cases, rape is treated as trauma when the assault occurs.
    • Therefore, if sexual assault is recognized as a traumatic event, PTSD can be avoided.
  • Peer reviewed research and empirical statistics
    • Support correlation between sexual assault and PTSD
    • Women more likely to develop PTSD as men (Koenen & Widom, 2009)
  • Relevance of correlation
    • Understanding the vicious cycle of abuse and sexual assault
    • Understanding leads to quicker recovery
    • Imperative to attain true diagnosis of rape survivors
    • Recognizing signs of PTSD
    • Studies & statistical data regarding how men/boys respond to sexual assault can only give a clearer understanding in combating this violence as well as helping male victims (Sarkar & Sarkar, 2005; Ullman et al, 2007; Read et al, 2007)
  • Prevalent factors
    • Rape survivors report feeling dirty or unclean (Olatunji, Elwood, Williams, & Lohr (2008).
    • “ General negative view of self, perceived permanent change, alienation from self and others, hopelessness, negative interpretation of symptoms, self-trust, self-blame, trust in other people, and [living in an] unsafe world” (Olatunji et al, 2008)
    • Factors relating to PTSD in this study are negative feelings regarding self & the world along with experiencing self-blame.
  • Research by Widom, Dutton, Czaja, and DuMont (2005)
    • “ Se xual abuse charges varied from relatively nonspecific charges of ‘assault and battery with intent to gratify sexual desires , to more specific charges of fo ndling or touching in an obscene manner, rape, sodomy, incest, and so forth .”
    • “ The following statistics, gender specific of children between 0-11 years, are reported by Widom et al (2005):
    • De scription Men (%) Women (%) Odds ratio
    • Coerced into unwanted sex 12.9 42.5 4.99
    • Attempted forced sex 11.0 21.4 2.20
    • Private parts touched 4.8 13.8 3.15”
  • Coping strategies Fortier, DiLillo, Messman-Moore, Peugh DeNardi & Gaffey (2009)
    • Children use various coping strategies when dealing with abuse or trauma
    • CSA (childhood sexual assault) conceptualized as leading to the use of avoidant coping, which was then thought to lead to maintenance of trauma symptoms, which in turn, impact severity of revictimization indirectly
    • Depending upon the resiliency of the individual will determine future PTSD
  • Strengths and Weaknesses of all Studies
    • There is a plethora of research and empirical data regarding children, in particular, girls.
    • There are more current studies concerning women and girls.
    • It is difficult to find research regarding boys, and there is far less to be found on men.
    • Some studies that relate compelling statistics can not be generalized due to sample population.
  • Conclusion
    • future research questions:
    • Addressing the need to broaden the scope of studies to include males
    • Further developing studies on children to facilitate their healing process
    • The hypothesis women will “a c t in” by becoming depressed, and suffering from PTSD, and men will “a c t out” and victimize as a means to deal with their trauma.
  • References
    • Fortier, M. A., DiLillo, D., Messman-Moore, T. L., Peugh, J., DeNardi, K. A., & Gaffey, K. J. (2009). Severity of child sexual abuse and revictimization: theme-diating role of coping and trauma symptoms . Psychology of Women Quarterly, 33(3), 308-320. Doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2009.01503.x
    • Koenen, K., & Widom, C. (2009). A prospective study of sex differences in the lifetime risk of posttraumatic stress disorder among abused and neglected children grown up. Journal of Traumatic Stress , 22(6), 566-574. doi:10.1002/jts.2047
    • Moore, P. (2006). Boys who have abused: Psychoanalytic psychotherapy with victim/perpetrators of sexual abuse. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry , 51(13), 865-866. Retrieved from EBSCOhost
    • Olatunji, B. O., Elwood, L. S., Williams, N. L., & Lohr, J. M. (2008). Mental pollution and PTSD symptoms in victims of sexual assault: A preliminary examination of the mediating role of trauma-related cognitions. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy , 22(1), 37-47. Doi:10.1891/0889.8391.22.1.3
    • Rauch, S. M., Grunfeld, T. E., Yadin, E., Cahill, S. P., Hembree, E., & Foa, E. B. (2009). Changes in reported physical health symptoms and social function with prolonged exposure therapy for chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Depression & Anxiety (1091-4269), 26(8), 732-738. doi:10.1002/da.2051
    • Read, J., Os, J., Morrison, A., & Ross, C. (2005). Childhood trauma, psychosis and schizophrenia: a literature review with theoretical and clinical implications. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 112(5), 330-350. Doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2005.00634
    • Sarkar, N. N., & Sarkar, R. (2005). Sexual assault on woman: Its impact on her life and living in society . Sexual & Relationship Therapy , 20(4), 407-419. Doi:10.1080/1468199050024950
    • Spencer, M. J., & Dunklee, P. (1986). Sexual abuse of boys. Pediatrics , 78(1), 133. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
    • Ullman, S., Filipas, H., Townsend, S., & Starzynski, L. (2007). Psychosocial correlates of PTSD symptom severity in sexual assault survivors . Journal of Traumatic Stress , 20(5), 821-831. Doi:10.1002/jts.202
    • Ullman, S. E., Townsend, S. M., Filipas, H. H., & Starzynski, L. L. (2007). 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 doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2007.00328.
    • Widom, C., Dutton, M., Czaja, S. J., & DuMont, K. A. (2005). Development and validation of a new instrument to assess lifetime trauma and victimization history . Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18(5), 519-531. Retrieved from EBSCOhost
    • Yaeger, D., Himmelfarb, N., Cammack, A., & Mintz, J. (2006). DSM-IV Diagnosed posttraumatic stress disorder in women veterans with and without military sexual trauma . JGIM: Journal of General Internal Medicine, 21S65-S69. Doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00377.x