Rape Trauma Syndrome: How to Deal with the Anger of Trauma
Rape Trauma Syndrome refers to a group of symptoms exhibited by survivors of violent sexual abuse. Many of these symptoms take the form of anger.
Children often manifest severe psychological distress as overt anger. It is easy to understand such anger. Victims who are children feel vulnerable, perhaps even ashamed. Their sense of power and control has been taken from them.
Some children, however, appear subdued, as though in a state of denial. These children manifest their anger as silence. Either way, their anguish has to be processed before they can return to some form of normalcy.
What are the Symptoms of Rape Trauma Syndrome?
Physical symptoms include pain, muscle tension, stomachache,headaches,genitourinary complaints, numbness and changes in sleep patterns.
Emotional symptoms can manifest as fear, anger, anxiety, restlessness,mood swings or silence, shyness, and depression.
These children may behave in an erratic fashion, crying, screaming, unable to sleep or be alone. Or they may display no outward response; they may be unusually quiet, withdrawn or moody.
Such behavior is understandable. It takes time for these children with rape trauma syndrome to metabolize their ordeal.Even when their behavior or mood seems to have returned to normal, they could still be afflicted with restless nights and insomnia.
They may complain of nightmares,fears of the dark, fears of being alone, fears of people who remind them of their assailants.
Parents need to be alert to changes in lifestyle, such as eating, school performance and social patterns.
Foods that were once favorites may remain untouched. Children may overeat or refuse to eat.
They may reject close friends or make new friends who are decidedly different from their usual associates.
Parents have to be aware of these lifestyle changes because they may be indications of emotional trauma that needs to be resolved. New and different friends may reflect the loss of a vital part of the child's past identity.
There could be conflicts developing between parents and children at this stage. Continuous engagement of children with professional therapists is highly recommended.Rape trauma syndrome is not something that can be resolved overnight.
What Treatment Options are Available for children with Rape Trauma Syndrome?
Because children may harbor feelings of guilt and shame, they may refuse to talk about their trauma. However, it is vitally important they they bring their ordeal out into the open.
Processing the trauma will restore their balance. But this processing must be done in their own terms. They must be given the choice of when and how.
This is the place where Therapy becomes useful. According to Art Therapist Terry Pilafo combining Art Therapy with Cognitive Behavior Therapy is an effective way to help children who have been sexually traumatized.
One reason is that both treatment modalities approach traumatized children from opposing yet balancing ends.Cognitive Behavior Therapy is talk therapy; Art Therapy is mainly a non-verbal form of communication. Together, they offer powerful tools to help abused children process their traumatic experience.
Children with rape trauma syndrome often carry traumatic memories as photographic images. Art Therapy allows them to bring these images to consciousness where they can be addressed. While an abused child might not be ready to speak about his experience, he might be more amenable to drawing what needs to be said.
Pictures drawn by children who have been sexually traumatized speak volumes; they are usually the first step towards re-integration.
Once these children have "spoken" through art, the way is paved for future encounters of the trauma through words.The process triggers a natural development of trust. Moreover, the playful aspects of art also allows children to open up without any sense of shame or guilt.
Eventually, through art and talk therapy, these children will arrive at a stage when they can assimilate their trauma into their lives. Signs of this stage of acceptance include the following:
a) they will feel strong enough to talk about the trauma and its effects on them;
b) they will be able to locate that part within that says,"I can survive this. I am okay."
c) they will be able to regain their sense of security and safety;
d) they will be able to feel trust in themselves and in others;
e) they will be able to view their experience without anger, resentment or sense of loss.
To get these children to this stage, parents must be there to provide viable, compassionate, understanding and patient support. Patience is vital because the time it takes to return to normal belongs to the child. He or she needs the mess reworked, one piece at a time, not shoved under the carpet.
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Disclaimer: The above information is meant only to inform and should never displace professional consultation.