Rape Trauma Sydrome

I know I have been talking about Lady Gaga, alot, and yes, I know she is one of my favorite artists of all time…..but that is besides the point. I am bringing this up because she recently came out in an interview that she suffer from chronic pain and has been ever since her assault.

Did you know that after someone is raped or sexual assault that there are stages to their recovery? Every suffers from trauma differently. Depending upon the person, the stages that they go through can be different.

I am going to walk through the symptoms of Rape Trauma Syndrome. We will go through the Physical symptoms, the Behavioral symptoms and the psychological symptoms.

PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF RAPE TRAUMA SYNDROME

Physical symptoms are those things which manifest in or upon the survivor’s body that are evident to her and under physical examination by a nurse or doctor. Some of these are only present immediately after the rape while others only appear at a later stage.

  • Immediately after a rape, survivors often experience shock. They are likely to feel cold, faint, become mentally confused (disorientated), tremble, feel nauseous and sometimes vomit
  • Pregnancy
  • Gynaecological problems. Irregular, heavier and/or painful periods. Vaginal discharges, bladder infections. Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Bleeding and/or infections from tears or cuts in the vagina or rectum
  • A soreness of the body. There may also be bruising, grazes, cuts or other injuries
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Throat irritations and/or soreness due to forced oral sex
  • Tension headaches
  • Pain in the lower back and/or in the stomach
  • Sleep disturbances. This may be difficulty in sleeping or feeling exhausted and needing to sleep more than usual
  • Eating disturbances. This may be not eating or eating less or needing to eat more than usual

BEHAVIOURAL SYMPTOMS OF RAPE TRAUMA SYNDROME

Behavioural symptoms are those things the survivor does, expresses or feels that are generally visible to others. This includes observable reactions, patterns of behaviour, lifestyle changes and changes in relationships.

  • Crying more than usual
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Being restless, agitated and unable to relax or feeling listless and unmotivated
  • Not wanting to socialise or see anybody or socializing more than usual, so as to fill up every minute of the day
  • Not wanting to be alone
  • Stuttering or stammering
  • Avoiding anything that reminds the survivor of the rape
  • Being more easily frightened or startled than usual
  • Being very alert and watchful
  • Becoming easily upset by small things
  • Relationship problems, with family, friends, lovers and spouses
  • Fear of sex, loss of interest in sex or loss of sexual pleasure
  • Changes in lifestyle such as moving house, changing jobs, not functioning at work or at school or changes to appearance
  • Drop in school, occupational or work performance
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Increased washing or bathing
  • Behaving as if the rape didn’t occur, trying to live life as it was before the rape, this is called denial
  • Suicide attempts and other self-destructive behaviour such as substance abuse or self- mutilation

PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS OF RAPE TRAUMA SYNDROME

Psychological symptoms are much less visible and can in fact be completely hidden to others so survivors need to offer this information or be carefully and sensitively questioned in order to elicit them. They generally refer to inner thoughts, ideas and emotions.

  • Increased fear and anxiety
  • Self-blame and guilt
  • Helplessness, no longer feeling in control of your life
  • Humiliation and shame
  • Lowering of self esteem
  • Feeling dirty or contaminated by the rape
  • Anger
  • Feeling alone and that no one understands
  • Losing hope in the future
  • Emotional numbness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of memory
  • Constantly thinking about the rape
  • Having flashbacks to the rape, feeling like it is happening again
  • Nightmares
  • Depression
  • Becoming suicidal

As for me personally, I will say that I went through some of these symptoms. For the physically recovery, I had soreness all through my body and their were bruises that I saw in the mirror for about a week after. I also had sleep disturbances, and eating disturbances. As for sleeping, all I wanted to do was sleep, all the time. I remember one day in particular a few weeks after everything, my roommate and I slept for 14 hours straight. And at the time, I also had bulimia. So eating was not an issue, it was more purging. I would eat so much food and purge it all back up. I did this to suppress my feelings. It was a way for me to not fully confront them.

As for behavioral, there were many. I had difficulty concentrating in class, some days, and others I would concentrate too much. I had relationship problems with family, some friends and with guys(intimate relationships). One top of that, I was in denial. One of my best friends recalls my telling them of what happen to about 6 months after everything. I told her so nonchalantly. Like it happen to someone else, or we were talking about the weather. I also feel that when I did eventually share with some other friends, I did the same thing. Some of my friends were also angry with me. Because I put myself in a bad situation. Which I did……so I can totally understand their anger. But it was a very trying time with being in denial and not wanting to talk about. After the event, I tried to go back to how life was before the rape. I still had a crush on the guy that I had before it happened, but I knew nothing would ever come of it. I still partied quite a bit, more so to forget what had happen. But I eventually hit a breaking point where I knew I couldn’t turn back. I also made the choice to go back to school after it happen. I knew I needed to be out of my hometown because all it would do is remind me of what happen. Lastly, I hated the way fall smelt. When the season fall came around every year it would disgust me, and I would get depressed. When I visited new places that technically didn’t go through “Fall” I thought about moving there. It wasn’t until 2011, I learned to love fall again. There were also some instances where I thought I had some form of flashbacks, like pieces that I don’t have any recollection came back to me. I would have visions of being in the woods. I also knew that the morning I woke up in the hospital I had a dream of the sun coming up over a field. Well, where I was left on the side of the road, there was a field a across from me. And the sun was coming up. So I can understand where that dream came from.

As for psychological, there was quite a few. Humiliation, shame, no longer in control of my life, depression, anxiety especially when I thought I saw the abuser, lower self-esteem, feeling dirty, and feeling alone. I became very good at suppressing these feelings unfortunately. I remember there were days that I would just cry, and cry because I couldn’t understand why someone I thought I knew would let this happen. Someone I thought I could trust.

Sometimes I think that I actually was assaulted more than once. Because I turned to alcohol to help me forget what was going on in my daily life, there have been a few other questionable times. But I never pursued them due to the fact that I felt like I was damaged goods so this must be something that should happen to me.

So regardless if the person remembers the attack or not, if a person has been raped, they not only go through a traumatic experience, the assault itself, but they also go through a lengthy heart wrenching experience afterwards.

If I can give you one piece of advice, don’t push a survivor/victim to talk until they are ready. And don’t judge a person because you never know what they might be going through.

http://www.elle.com/culture/celebrities/news/a34701/lady-gaga-sexual-assault-kesha/?utm_content=buffera2888&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://rapecrisis.org.za/rape-trauma-syndrome/

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Being aware doesn’t mean you understand.

While recently scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, I came across a post which stated, “Why didn’t this happen when we were in school, and who were the ungrateful f**** that reported it.”

The above comment was attached to a news article about a math teacher that was being charged with sexual assault. In the article, which was attached to the post, it stated that “the students all claim one time in class she gave them all repeated Bl😵w Jobs & let them take turns hitting it in different positions.”

The post had some comments underneath, all by men, with comment such as, “Lucky Bastards”, or “I would have kept that to myself.”

I get that we all have a need for sexual intimacy in our lives. It’s in our nature. It’s the way that we procreate, but I found the post incredibly disturbing.

First off, the legal age for consent is 16 in most states. If two people that are 16 years and older engage in any sexual activity, they are fully capable of giving consent. However, if someone is under the age of 18 and a figure of authority has sex with them, even if the person under the age of 18 consents, it is still illegal.

Second, the reason this post on my news feed bothered me is the pure fact that the comments made it sound as if all of the men were okay with this happening! What if these students did not consent to these act?. Even if they did, the law states that it still illegal. As a woman who is an advocate for sexual violence, I find this whole situation bothersome. There are so many survivors of both sexual and domestic violence attempting to make a change and meanwhile there are people out there who condone sexual acts between teachers and their students.

Maybe I am just being too critical or picky, but when people throw around the term rape such as “that team got raped on the field.” I might still be in the conversation, but I don’t think rape is the appropriate term to use.

About 10 years ago, I attended a frat party, during my college days. I went alone, which was entirely my own fault, but I left without barely touching a drink. I left because I overheard a conversation between two guys discussing how they wanted to see who they could get the most drunk and sleep with. Why can’t you just go up to the girl you like, court her for a bit and then get to that level? Why do you have to get her drunk?

I also get upset when fans of sports teams create signs or t-shirts that joke about a particular scandal. For example, at a Penn State game, a recent sign that some Rutger’s fans used during tailgating of a child performing a sex act on an adult. Seriously?!

Now I am not saying that all frats are like that, and just because men commented on the article that was posted on Facebook doesn’t mean that it is just men saying things like this. It’s simply about being a little more understanding and aware.

However, being aware doesn’t always mean you understand.

You can sit there and say you are aware that sexual violence is an issue in our society, in our culture. But do you know why? Do you understand why? Do you know why so many victims choose to stay silent? Because of comments and images that I just stated above.

If people had a little more decency, maybe we would be able to move more progressively to a better culture.

SAAM 2016/Redmylips

Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2016.

This was  a very busy month. We had two challenges this month.

  • To provide some form of content on the Voice’s of Hope facebook page, every single day, and we accomplished it.
  • To wear red lipstick everyday for the month of April.

Challenge was accepted and achieved. On top of that challenge, Voices of Hope had 4 speaking engagements. So it was a VERY busy month besides working a full time job and being a wife, and a mother. Surprisingly, I still went to bed each night almost shortly after my son, at 9PM.

All my red lips!

REd My Lips 2016

The first week of April, I had the opportunity to travel to WVU. It was very inspiring to see what the Peer Advocates there organized. The day I went to speak was pretty intense. My mom was driving down to meet me and go with me. I was going to being speaking front of a play the students had organized called “Hush.” I ended up sharing resources with the students prior to the play. I hope what I shared was beneficial and made an impact. I can’t begin to put into words how inspiring these students are and the effort they put forth to bring sexual assault awareness to their campus.

The second week, I was heading back to the University of Pitt for the 3rd time. THE 3RD TIME!! I really have enjoyed every time I have spoken at Pitt. They had a beautiful event the evening of of the 14th. I was so excited that one of my best friends, Julie Miller, was able to come and hear me speak. This was the first time she was able to. So it made the event even more special. They started with an introduction and then had three individuals read poems they wrote about sexual assault. Afterwards, they had a dance team performance a piece called “1 in 5.” I have to say that it was very triggering for me, the dance piece. It was a first time, in a long time that I had some anxiety. It felt like a huge stone was one top of my chest so that I couldn’t expand my lungs to breath. Next the Vice President, James, of the new group called “Students engaging in Conversations about Consent and Sexuality,” introduced me. I spoke about what happen to me, the struggles I dealt with during recovery, and how I turned a negative into a positive. I thanked them for inviting me back, and then was able to meet with an individual that works in the Title IX office.

The third week of April, I did not have any speaking engagements but that did not stop me from spreading the word. I received a teal ribbon from Pitt and began wearing it. When I went to an appointment at the doctor’s, a girl asked me what the teal ribbon meant. I told her that it was sexual assault awareness month, and the ribbon did exactly what it was suppose to do, spark a conversation.

The last week of the month was a fun one. I was interviewed by the one and only Melanie Taylor from 100.7 Star Pittsburgh! It was so great to have a conversation with around sexual assault awareness month, and what some of the universities have been doing. I was also able to share my site, facebook and twitter page!!! Listen to the first part  Listen to the 2nd part The Tuesday, on the 26th, I help my first webinar called: The Silent Crime: what your workplace needs to know about sexual and domestic violence. I thought it went really well! I hope the participants enjoyed what they learned and I hope to get to present and other organizations!

Throughout the entire month, I was able to wear red lipstick everyday. It was a challenge, because it gets everywhere! And it made it hard to kiss my son or my husband lol! But it truly made an impact because I was able to start some conversations online in regards to SAAM, Sexual violence awareness month.

The newest thing I was able to participate in was some twitter chats for survivors. There was a Solidarity chat every Monday, and Survivors steps chat every Wednesday. This opened me up to a whole new world that I never new existed and enabled me to talk to other survivors. Something I used to be uncomfortable with. So not only did I help in my healing process, but I was able to spread awareness through out the entire month!!!

 

Lastly, I had some great supporters this month who came out and was able to spread awareness too……a huge thanks goes out not only to them but also my husband and my son for putting up with my red lips alllllll month long!!! (If you liked the color I used, it was from the Dollar Store, go figure!!)