Information For Health Care Providers
Unfortunately, sexual assault is fairly prevalent in our society today. Survivors of sexual assault can experience a wide variety of symptoms, but they do not have to suffer in silence. Mental-health professionals can offer a number of effective treatments tailored to the individual woman’s needs.
For information on how to assess for sexual trauma or create a safe atmosphere for your patients, see Sexual Trauma: Information for Women’s Medical Providers.
Military Sexual Trauma Va Claims: Potential Evidence & Liberalized Considerations
Fortunately, VA has recognized after significant prodding from lawmakers and veterans advocates that it is unreasonable to expect all MST survivors to have direct documentation of their traumatic event, given the difficulty of reporting.
As a result, the evidence standard for establishing the stressor in certain types of PTSD claims has been liberalized . VA allows the claimant to use a wide range of evidence to indicate the event occurred. Since VA adjudicators do not always accurately follow these more liberal standards, it is important to be aware of them in case an appeal is necessary.
MST-related PTSD claims fall under the personal assault category of PTSD. For claims that fall under this category, objective documentation of the actual stressor is not necessary.
VA guidelines instruct the adjudicators of military sexual trauma claims to look beyond the claimants military records. As a matter of law, the veterans failure to report the event at the time cannot be used against them.
What Are Some Symptoms Related To Sexual Trauma In Boys And Men
Particularly when the assailant is a woman, the impact of sexual assault upon men may be downplayed by professionals and the public. However, men who have early sexual experiences with adults report problems in various areas at a much higher rate than those who do not.
Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to suffer from PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression than those who have never been abused sexually.
Men who have been sexually assaulted have a high incidence of alcohol and drug use. For example, the probability for alcohol problems in adulthood is about 80 out of every 100 for men who have experienced sexual abuse, as compared to 11 out of every 100 for men who have never been sexually abused.
Risk taking behavior
Exposure to sexual trauma can lead to risk-taking behavior during adolescence, such as running away and other delinquent behaviors. Having been sexually assaulted also makes boys more likely to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for contracting HIV .
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How To Help Someone Recover From Rape Or Sexual Trauma
When a spouse, partner, sibling, or other loved one has been raped or sexually assaulted, it can generate painful emotions and take a heavy toll on your relationship. You may feel angry and frustrated, be desperate for your relationship to return to how it was before the assault, or even want to retaliate against your loved ones attacker. But its your patience, understanding, and support that your loved one needs now, not more displays of aggression or violence.
Let your loved one know that you still love them and reassure them that the assault was not their fault. Nothing they did or didnt do could make them culpable in any way.
Allow your loved one to open up at their own pace. Some victims of sexual assault find it very difficult to talk about what happened, others may need to talk about the assault over and over again. This can make you feel alternately frustrated or uncomfortable. But dont try to force your loved one to open up or urge them to stop rehashing the past. Instead, let them know that youre there to listen whenever they want to talk. If hearing about your loved ones assault brings you discomfort, talking to another person can help put things in perspective.
Take care of yourself. The more calm, relaxed, and focused you are, the better youll be able to help your loved one. Manage your own stress and reach out to others for support.
Help For Men Who Have Been Sexually Assaulted
Men who have been assaulted often feel stigmatized, which can be the most damaging aspect of the assault. It is important for men to discuss the assault with a caring and unbiased support person, whether that person is a friend, clergyman, or clinician. However, it is vital that this person be knowledgeable about sexual assault and men.
A local rape crisis center may be able to refer men to mental-health practitioners who are well-informed about the needs of male sexual assault victims. If you are a man who has been assaulted and you suffer from any of these difficulties, please seek help from a mental-health professional who has expertise working with men who have been sexually assaulted.
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Symptoms Of Ptsd After Sexual Assault
Survivors of sexual assault can experience severe and chronic symptoms of PTSD, such as:
- Body aches
Their experience might include:
- Avoidance, such as avoiding thoughts or feelings of the traumatic event staying away from reminders of the trauma such as people, places, objects, or situations and resisting conversations about what happened
- Intrusive symptoms, such as repeated, unwanted memories of the event, recurrent nightmares, and flashbacks
- Increased arousal, such as trouble falling or staying asleep, being easily startled or fearful, trouble concentrating, and hypervigilance to surroundings and potential threats to safety
- Changes in thoughts and feelings, such as ongoing, distorted beliefs about yourself or others recurrent feelings of fear, horror, anger, guilt, shame, or hopelessness loss of interest in once enjoyable activities feeling detached from others or struggling to maintain close relationships and difficulty experiencing positive feelings like joy or satisfaction
When To Help A Hurting Colleague And How To Get Treatment
A victim of sexual harassment may ultimately want to speak out against their abuser, but its important for others to speak up, too, even ahead of the victim. If you know something, say something but dont gossip that only escalates the problem and further endangers the victim.
When people suspect something is going on and dont speak out, the harassment evolves, says Angioni. I counsel companies and employees to go about it tactfully. If you think something is happening, don’t talk about it at the water cooler, or in front of the victim. Dont send snarky emails or texts. Talk to someone in management. Help without creating a further problem. If there is not an HR person, find a trusted supervisor. If you really cant find someone you trust, you contact the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
If you know something, say something but dont gossip that only escalates the problem and further endangers the victim.
For the victim, speaking out may be challenging, and in some cases they may just really not be willing or able to do so. Its important that both victims and their supporters understand that while silence isnt ideal, it may be what works for the coping or healing process at the moment. But only if youre talking to a mental health professional about what is going on. This cannot be emphasized enough: If you are being sexually harassed you mustnt keep this a secret it is literally toxic to your health.
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Unhelpful Ways Of Coping
Making the decision to not report a sexual assault may temporarily help you to believe you are fine, in control of yourself and the situation, or that you are not too bothered by what occurred. Making the decision to not seek professional mental health treatment may also help to temporarily reinforce these desired beliefs. While these are understandable acts of demonstrating resiliency to yourself , these actions, unfortunately, do not work to actually relieve you of the psychological distress that is likely to follow.
Some readers may be thinking, well, Ive managed what happened to me well and I am fine or I got past it. It is possible that you may feel that wayalbeit temporarily. Very often when individuals forego trauma treatment, they may temporarily feel a lot better and not even think about what happened too often. This effect may even last for several years.
What Do Flashbacks Feel Like
Flashbacks feel different for different people. They can happen at anytime, even when we’re feeling happy.
They can be very scary and distressing as you re-experience your trauma and it can feel like it’s really happening. You may see what happened as single images or like a film, hear sounds or words, or feel as though you’re being touched. You might be able to smell or taste something linked to your trauma and your body might react the same way by your heart beating fast or sweating.
Flashbacks can make you feel vulnerable, anxious and scared. They can leave you feeling isolated and not wanting to talk to anyone. You might experience intense feelings of anger, shame or numbness.
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Psychotherapy Treatment Options For Ptsd
In addition to promising social programs, there are many therapies focussing on the psychological aspect of PTSD. CBT focuses on changing thought patterns and cognitions to decrease negative emotions, develop skills to cope with anxiety and negative thoughts, restore effective social skills, and develop ways to manage anger and future trauma symptoms .
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is an Information Processing Therapy that combines elements of CBT, psychodynamic, interpersonal, experiential and body-centred therapies to treat PTSD . During EMDR, the client thinks of past or present traumatic experiences while concurrently focusing on a stimulus such as auditory tones, tactile stimulation, or visual cues . This leads to dual attention, changing the processing of the traumatic memories and decreasing anxiety when thinking about the traumatic experience. It has been suggested that PTSD is due to an inability to adequately process the trauma and EMDR may be useful in this reprocessing . In an EMDR study by Rothbaum, only 10% of participants who were treated with EMDR therapy exhibited PTSD symptoms after treatment, compared to 88% of non-treatment control patients . Although the role of the eye movements has been contested, EMDR is proving to be an effective treatment option for PTSD .
Women’s Responses To Childhood And Adulthood Sexual Violence Are Complex And Highly Individualized Some Survivors Experience Severe And Chronic Psychological Symptoms Whereas Others Experience Little Or No Distress The Wide Range Of Consequences May Be Attributed To Assault Characteristics Environmental Conditions Survivor Attributes And Availability Of Social Support And Resources The Use Of Different Methodologies May Also Contribute To Mixed Findings Across Studies In This Paper Sexual Trauma Refers To One Or Multiple Sexual Violations That Invoke Significant Distress The Term Sexual Trauma Is Used Based On Clinical Observations That Some Survivors Do Not Label Their Experiences As Rape Or Assault Due To Familiarity With The Perpetrator Or The Absence Of Force
Childhood sexual trauma is associated with posttraumatic stress disorder , depression, suicide, alcohol problems, and eating disorders. Survivors may also experience low sexual interest and relationship difficulties and engage in high-risk sexual behaviors and extreme coping strategies. In the most severe cases, women may experience symptoms of a personality disorder, including one that is distinguished by enduring patterns of instability and impulsivity . Limited data on risk factors suggests that family environment and supportive responses from family and intimate partners may improve mental health and functioning among survivors.
Adulthood sexual trauma is associated with short-term and long-term psychological consequences. Short-term effects include shock, fear, anxiety, confusion, and withdrawal. Many survivors experience a reduction in symptoms within a few months, whereas some women experience distress for years. Long-term outcomes include PTSD, depression, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, alcohol and illicit drug use, nonfatal suicidal behavior and suicidal threats, physical symptoms in the absence of medical conditions, and severe preoccupations with physical appearances. Risks of developing mental health problems are related to assault severity, other negative life experiences, maladaptive beliefs, and perceptions of lack of control.
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What Are Some Early Reactions To Sexual Assault
In the first few days and weeks following the assault, it is very normal for a woman to experience intense and sometimes unpredictable emotions. She may have repeated strong memories of the event that are difficult to ignore, and nightmares are not uncommon. Women also report having difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and they may feel jumpy or on edge. While these initial reactions are normal and expected, some women may have severe, highly disruptive symptoms that make it very difficult to function in the first month following the assault. When these problems disrupt the woman’s daily life, and prevent her from seeking assistance or telling friends and family members, the woman may have.
Things To Do After An Assault
If you have experienced a sexual assault, visit your health care provider or go to the emergency room for a health exam.
If you think you might report the assault to law enforcement, there are a few things you can do to preserve evidence for use in a future investigation. First, go to the hospital emergency room as soon as possible and find out which hospital in your community has sexual assault nurse examiners on staff. If possible, do not change your clothes, wash, brush your teeth, eat or drink. Also, try not to use the restroom. If you need to change clothing, place all clothing you were wearing in a bag and bring it with you.
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Filing A Claim For Va Military Sexual Trauma Disability Benefits
VA considers MST to be a traumatic event or experience, not a diagnosis. Therefore, VA will not compensate a veteran for MST itself however, VA will grant service connection for conditions resulting from MST.
The most common diagnosis for MST survivors is post-traumatic stress disorder . VA refers to this diagnosis as PTSD due to MST in most of its publications and correspondence. Veterans filing a claim for PTSD due to MST can fill out VA Form 21-0781a: Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for PTSD, Secondary to Personal Assault.
However, MST-related claims are not limited to PTSD claims. Though PTSD may be one result of military sexual trauma, MST does not always result in a diagnosis of PTSD. It can also be associated with depression or anxiety, for example, or even a physical diagnosis.
Do You Need Assistance With Your Va Military Sexual Trauma Claim
VA does not always adjudicate MST claims properly. VA adjudicators often narrowly interpret which diagnoses are considered related to MST and some have limited ideas about what counts as evidence, despite VAs intentionally liberalized standards. Additionally, some VA staff minimize the importance of reports from non-VA healthcare providers.
If VA denied your MST-related claim, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD is here to help. The team of experienced and dedicated veterans advocates at CCK may be able to help you gather evidence and secure the compensation you deserve.
Call CCK today for a free case review at
Q: Are Some People More Likely To Get Ptsd
A: Yes. Youre at higher risk if you:
- Were abused as a child
- Were already struggling with depression or anxiety
- Have blood relatives with depression or anxiety
- Misuse drugs and/or alcohol
- Have little or no social support from family or friends
It really can happen to anyone, though immediately or months later.
Its Not All In Your Head The Body Reacts Too
Now, there are some who may counter, Well, I can see how sexual assault can lead to such disturbances, but how can harassment be so harmful? Sounds a bit dramatic! This thinking is deeply problematic not only because it dismisses medical science and undermines the stories of survivors, but also because it feeds the crippling doubt that so many victims face. These doubts can foster denial, which can lead to its own set of complications, particularly around physical health.
Sometimes sexual harassment registers as a trauma, and it’s difficult for the to deal with it, so what literally happens is the body starts to become overwhelmed, says Dr. Nekeshia Hammond, a licensed psychologist. We call it somatizing: the mental health becomes so overwhelming one cant process it to the point of saying I have been traumatized or I am depressed. Essentially, its a kind of denial that when experienced for a long state can turn into physical symptoms.
These physical symptoms can run the gamut, manifesting as muscle aches, headaches, or even chronic physical health problems such as high blood pressure and problems with blood sugar.
In the long term, it could lead to heart issues, says Hammond.
Physical symptoms can run the gamut, manifesting as muscle aches, headaches, or even chronic physical health problems such as high blood pressure and problems with blood sugar.
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Sexual Assault And Abuse In The Lgbtq+ Community
The rates of sexual assault for homosexual and bisexual individuals are comparable or higher than the rates for heterosexual people. Hate crimes account for many sexual assaults against LGBTQ+ people.
Among cisgender women, the lifetime prevalence rates for rape are:
- 46% for bisexual women.
- 13% for lesbian women.
- 17% for heterosexual women.
Rape statistics among cisgender men are limited. The lifetime prevalence rates for sexual assaults other than rape are:
- 47% for bisexual men.
- 40% for gay men.
- 21% of heterosexual men.
Around 64% of transgender people will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. This statistic includes transgender people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault. In a 2011 survey, 12% of trans youth said peers or educational staff had sexually assaulted them in a school setting.
Sexual crimes in the LGBTQ+ community are often not reported. Survivors may fear revealing their gender identity or sexual orientation to others. They may not trust the legal system to protect them. Survivors could also fear inciting further violence.
LGBTQ+ survivors of sexual assault can get help from a therapist. Mental health professionals cannot disclose ones personal information to others. Therapy is a confidential place where one can find support without judgment.