Is the Silence Broken?
30 years after rape crisis centers, women are being heard.
Advances in Psychological Care
Research underscores the profound and complex trauma experienced by rape
victims. A study funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse found in the
early 1990s that survivors were at increased risk for a broad array of mental
health problems, from attempted suicide, to increased drug and alcohol abuse,
to major depressive episodes.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, a debilitating condition arising after
trauma such as combat, is now recognized as a common consequence of rape, said
Ivonne Zarate, educational coordinator of the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center.
Zarate noted that a form of this disorder -- referred to as rape trauma
syndrome (RTS) -- strikes, at some point in their lives, a third of those
who've been raped.
Fortunately, advocates and counselors at many rape trauma rooms are trained
to recognize the physical, mental, and behavioral stress reactions that come
with RTS and can address the problem early. Spouses, children, lovers, and
friends may also be significantly affected by a survivor's rape. Most crisis
centers provide free counseling to all those in her circle.
Despite the innovations, though, a majority of people fall through the
cracks. According to a U.S. Department of Justice survey, only about 16% of
rape victims -- of all ages -- report the crime in the first place. Overall,
says Marybeth Carter, the message still needs to get out to communities, to
parents, to doctors: Rape can happen to anyone, anywhere -- and when it does,
comprehensive care is a necessity.
Jolie Ann Bales is an attorney based in Berkeley, Calif. She has written for
a number of legal and business publications.