LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney James G. Onder | Oct 6, 2011

Understanding Sexual Assault Trauma Syndrome

When an individual is sexually assaulted or raped, they can be susceptible to a myriad of emotional and psychological symptoms. Sexual assault victims may be able to pursue compensation from their attacker so they can be reimbursed for physical and non-physical damages.

Being a victim of sexual assault or rape can have a lasting impact on a rape victim. Rape Trauma Syndrome or Sexual Assault Trauma Syndrome is a type of psychological trauma that is experienced by a rape victim. It involves a series of disruptions to the normal physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioral and interpersonal characteristics of an individual.

RTS is a series of psychological symptoms and physical signs that are common to most rape victims. These symptoms and signs appear during, immediately following, and for a number of months or years following the rape. Although women are more inclined to be a rape victim than a man, men who were sexually abused as children or teens have also exhibited the symptoms of RTS.

There are three different stages associated with RTS that a survivor will go through. They are the acute state, the outer adjustment stage and the renormalization stage.

The acute stage is identified with the days or weeks immediately following the rape. Although there isn’t a typical response observed in all victims, there are stages that many victims will go through in the days and weeks following. They may appear hysterical or agitated, they may suffer from crying spells or anxiety attacks, they may have a highly controlled reaction where they act as if “nothing happened," or they may have trouble recalling the event. Many rape survivors hold their emotions in and appear calm and unaffected by the assault.

Rape survivors who do show disorientation in the acute stage may exhibit hysteria, confusion, paralyzing anxiety, vomiting, numbness or an obsession to wash and clean themselves.

After they have passed through the acute stage, they will move on to the outward adjustment stage. During this stage they can appear to have readjusted back to their normal routine, yet they experience intense inner turmoil. The survivor will manifest a variety of outlets that they will try and use to help them cope with the trauma of the rape itself. They may pretend like everything is fine, they may refuse to discuss it, or they may change their appearance or move away to a new home or city.

Sexual assault victims can suffer from a wide array of symptoms. Their health can deteriorate, they can suffer from ongoing anxiety, and they can feel a sense of helplessness and suffer from mood swings. Female rape victims are especially susceptible to experiencing extreme anger and hostility than their male counterparts. Victims commonly experience flashbacks of the rape, sleep disturbances with recurring nightmares, insomnia and persistent fear.

Many people experience difficulties with their personal relationships after a rape, especially relationships with the opposite sex. They may have trouble maintaining previously close relationships or they may have trouble establishing trust in new ones. They can be in constant fear of their surroundings and suffer from panic attacks. Some victims turn towards self-mutilation, drug or alcohol abuse for coping mechanisms following the rape. They oftentimes develop fears or phobias specific to the circumstances of the rape. They may develop a fear of crowds, a fear of men, agoraphobia (fear of going out), hapnophobia (fear of being touched), or feelings of paranoia.

Sexual Assault Trauma Syndrome can have an impact on all aspects of the victim’s life. They can lose time from work, or have an inability to return to work. They can have an overwhelming fear of leaving their home, and their interpersonal relationships can be destroyed. If you were a victim of a sexual assault, you may be able to recover compensation for both physical and non-physical damages resulting from the attack. So please, contact a personal injury attorney so you can pursue just compensation and your attacker can be brought to justice.

Additional resources provided by the author

The Onder Law Firm has been providing the residents of St. Louis, Missouri with top notch representation and service throughout the years. Their firm is dedicated to advocating for the rights of those injured by the reckless and negligent actions of others. They care deeply for their clients and want nothing more than to get them the compensation that they are entitled to. Although no amount of money can erase the incident, it can help ensure that you receive the highest quality of care so you can focus on recovery. To find out more about your claim, contact a St. Louis personal injury attorney form their firm today by calling (866) 635-4864.

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