Social Science / Psychology Essay


Rape Trauma Syndrome

It is certainly difficult for a typical human to conceive and carry out the act of rape. There is no logic behind such despicable and lethal act, it happens anyway. Rape happens. When a person undergoes a traumatic episode in either the physiological means or the psychological means, s/he responds in an already diagnosed description.

When this reaction to trauma consists of a sequel of responses, it is considered as a syndrome. When the trauma suffered or experienced is however psychological, the reaction to it is volatile and emotional. The accumulation of responses to a rape incident is called Rape Trauma Syndrome.

Hence, Rape Trauma Syndrome is a procession of responses that are emotional, physiological and behavioral as diagnosed from victims of attempted assault or rape and actual victims of assault and rape. The Rape Trauma Syndrome is conceived by Ann Burgess and Lynda Holmstrom who are both therapists. It was designed to explain the cycle of symptoms experienced by victims. The basic phases are acute or immediate phase of disorganization and long-term process of reorganization.

As the Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) was applied in the field, another phase was devised, a phase regarded as an Underground or outward adjustment phase.

The Various Stages of Trauma

The Acute Phase

This phase materializes promptly after an assault. The victim encounters a wide spectrum of emotions which is characterized by shock and disbelief. The fear of physical injury and damage in the form of mutilation or death also sets in. Mood swing is identifiable also at this stage. A swift transcendence from happy to sad; calm to aggressive.

Some victims reveal uneasiness. They cry while they narrate precise information about the attack. Some victims appear entirely calm which demonstrates the degree of shock s/he could be.

The physiological reaction of the acute phase includes perceptions of agony and a kind of pounding all over the body. Reports on the concentrated area during the rape act such as throat, chest, arm or leg are also triggers for anxiety and crying spells attack. Victims of oral sex discuss the discomfort of mouth to throat engagement while victims of vaginal sex experience itching, a flaming sensation during urination and generalized pain.

At the physiological phase, there are chaotic sleeping patterns, insomnia and a kind of rape anticipatory anxiety. Some experience loss of enthusiasm for food and are frequently nauseated due to the assault.

Behavioral response in the victim includes actions of fear and confusion. It becomes arduous to solve simple problems and seemingly impossible to complete daily tasks. It becomes hard to comprehend new information and it is difficult to concentrate, examine and analyze other things. Some change apartments and numbers while they show little emotions or convulsive ones when they're around people. They also have a poor reminisce of rape and other memory. The acute phase lingers for days, for some victims, it lasts a couple of weeks.

The Underground or Outward Adjustment Stage

This is a period when victims endeavor to return to their ordinary everyday life as if nothing had happened to them. They impede thoughts of the assault, they talk only about decent issues. They want to ignore and forget about it; this period is characterized by depression.

It also features the manifestation of the following behaviors: consecutive bouts of anxiety, the feeling of helplessness and persistent fear, mood swings or recurrent nightmares and physiological ailments, convulsive eating or nausea, strong denial that the assault ever took place while victim shows an intense obsession with personal safety.

Victims also undergo distortion in holding on to memories in daily routines. In college, some victims may drop out, at the workplace, some victims are either absent or late because they feel great reluctance at leaving their houses. This phase can be experienced for years. On the surface, the victim has got over it but the emotional turmoil has never been discussed or settled.

Readjustment and/or Reorganization Stage

This is the long-term procedure that begins with emotional disruption. Spurs of the assault include seeing the assaulter, nightmares, a certain smell or clothes worn on the day of assault etcetera. At this stage, victims revolve around fear of {and} the appearance of the assailant for another attack. Victims create difficulty in eating and sleeping coupled with illusions on vengeance.

However, these feelings remain important at reorganizing the already disrupted life of the victim. It is nonetheless quite awful for victims to adjust to rape by strangers. This is because the unpredictable and arbitrariness of attacks give room for vulnerability which makes the victim attempt to feel safe.

For rape by acquaintances, it creates difficulty for victims to move on because of the feelings of self-fault and blame, sorrow and guilt as well as the inability to trust anyone; a reaction that can be irresistible.

Resolution Stage

At this phase, victims no longer center their lives on the rape episode. They acknowledge that the assault is a fraction of their lives and that they won’t forget their assaulter but somehow, the pain it incurs is diminishing. The victims accept rape as a part of their lives and at this phase, some of the behaviors of the underground and reorganization stage might set in but it will be less periodic.

The person is no longer a victim of a rape case, s/he becomes a survivor. At this stage, it must be acknowledged that some survivors take time to move forward and control the course of their lives while other survivors suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

At this, some fight reoccurring images of the trauma and they’re hyper-vigilant. They make a steady attempt to evade the memories although the nightmares and flashbacks steadily disrupt their lives. Some survivors show the need for continuous counseling and support.

The Integration Stage

this stage is closely knit with the resolution stage. Survivors of assaults begin to integrate this occasion into their lives. They can’t forget the event but it doesn’t control them either. They begin to reclaim their identity that was displaced by the rape trauma syndrome. This phase is viewed as the healing phase in which acceptance and moving on plays a crucial role.

Recovery takes time, the people around them must assist this process by not accusing and criticizing them for what they have suffered. The survivors need a safer atmosphere to work and exist beyond their fears and doubt. They need a space that supports recovery, not people and places that would horrify and compound their fears.


Rape Trauma Syndrome from King County Sexual Assault Resource Center

Rape Trauma Syndrome from Community Crisis Center INC

Rape Trauma Syndrome published by RAINN / RapeRape Trauma Syndrome, Abuse & Incest National Network

Rape Trauma Syndrome from

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