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
- 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
- Feeling alone and that no one understands
- Losing hope in the future
- Emotional numbness
- Loss of memory
- Constantly thinking about the rape
- Having flashbacks to the rape, feeling like it is happening again
- 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.