Rape Trauma Syndrome

Rape Trauma Syndrome is very similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, however was itself identified by American researchers, Burgess and Holstrom in the 1970s to describe what seemed to them to be a “typical” psychological response specifically to rape.  This text is adapted from this model.

The Crisis Stage

This is when the person reacts to what has happened during the rape.  It might be a physical reaction, behavioural, emotional or non-emotional.  Any reaction that enables the survivor to cope is a valid reaction.

The Suffering Stage

This is where the survivor begins to reflect on what has happened to them.  This is the stage where survivors might need additional support so they can realise what is happening to them as a result of the rape.  So, for example survivors might feel:

  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Shame
  • Sadness
  • Self-blame
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Isolation
  • Anger
  • Powerlessness
  • Confusion
  • Humiliation

They might feel unable to go out or unable to stay in.  They may have a loss of trust in other people or perhaps of themselves.

The Resolution Stage

This is where the survivor learns to come to terms with and learns to live with what has happened to them.

Throughout this process, survivors might feel a range of emotions and behaviours.  Some people are emotional, some people are not.  Some survivors might have panic attacks, sweating and shaking when they think of their experience.  Others might have flashbacks, which could be triggered by a sight, sound, situation or smell.  There might be problems in relationships, sexual problems, eating or sleeping disorders.  And, on top of this, the survivor needs to identify how she or he feels and come to terms with what has happened to them.