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Adult Sexual Trauma and Rape

This is a rough guide of issues for NLP Practitioners and Hypnotherapists to consider when working with clients who have been adult victims of sexual trauma such as rape.

  • A common issue with people playing the role of "therapist" is that the person playing the role of "client" will often mention things that trigger off reactions and issues in the "therapist" and the "therapist" then begins to engage in a series of behaviours to adjust the client accordingly. i.e. the client finds themselves being adjusted according to the `reaction set` of the therapist.

  • More than one inexperienced therapist has found themselves adopting the "protective male" role in order to nurture the vulnerable female client.

  • Abreaction therapy with clients is rarely beneficial. Having the client relive trauma does little to improve mental state and can be detrimental in both the short and long term.

  • Never pursue memories of trauma - a whole field of "recovered memory therapy" emerged in the 1980's and led therapists and their clients into a quagmire of legal, social, psychological and ethical problems.

  • Some traumatised victims will be seeking to make everything all right again, i.e. they wish that if only they can go back to what they were like before the assault etc. then everything will be fine again. The fact is that their identity is now changed - they are the person who had this happen to them, and living in denial of this is no solution (one client consulted me with severe panic attacks that developed after seeing an NLP/hypnotherapist who attempted to induce amnesia for the assault without addressing any other issue). In these terms, a client may run this script, "that sort of thing shouldn't happen to me, that is what happens to other people, not me" and they go along to their friendly NLP practitioner who performs a double dissociation and, hey presto, in the representation of the event it is seen as...happening to someone else.

  • There is a horribly high percentage of female victims of "single episode" rape being raped a second time within 10 years.

  • Guilt, shame, humiliation, embarrassment and self-blame are common responses. Reassurance rarely works, especially where the victims led a "high risk" lifestyle prior to the assault.

  • The victim may have been infected by the assailant with a sexually transmitted disease. Where the rape has gone unreported, it is also likely that the victim won't be screened at an STD clinic until symptoms emerge (this can take days to weeks). This can create further levels of disgust and self loathing. Fear of HIV infection is nearly always very high.

  • To screen for HIV infection, an initial blood test is required and then again in 6 months as antibody levels take some months to develop.

  • Microbial and bacterial STDs are invariably curable. Herpes and HIV are not. Herpes infections recur throughout life and there is an 80% chance of a sexual partner being infected within 2 years, despite best efforts at precautions. Where the victim is infected with herpes as a result of rape it is an almost certainty that their partner/future partner will be infected also. This throws up a new set of issues for the victim and partners.

  • Assailants rarely see themselves as "rapists" and where the assailant is known to the victim, the assailant may behave as though the assault was a normal consensual sexual liaison. In these situations, the victim may spend a significant period of time in the company of the assailant whilst mentally seeking a safe point of exit. During this time the victim may drink tea, eat a meal, or even go for a walk with the assailant.

  • The majority of rapes go unreported to the police. Of those reported to the police, very few are ever taken to court. Of those taken to court, very few result in a conviction. Under 6% of rape cases reported to the police result in a conviction. A Home Office research study published in 2005 "A Gap or a Chasm? Attrition in Reported Rape Cases" found that 80% of cases did not get beyond the investigation stage.
  • A significant proportion of rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim. In these instances, the victim may well work with, live nearby, or be related to the attacker. When such an attack goes to court or is made public, the social consequences to the victim can be huge as gossip develops and other people start taking sides. In scenarios like this, it is not unusual for friendship and social groups to break down.

  • Perpetrators are remarkably adept at attacking/exploiting victims they know that no-one will believe, are disliked already by the peer group, are already vulnerable to attack, or live high risk lifestyles.

  • Male victims of rape by another male[s] rarely report the incident, especially where there is a surprisingly low level of, or complete absence of, violence.

  • It is not unusual for male victims of rape/sexual assault to experience penile erection during the assault.

  • Male victims of sexual assault are stereotypically viewed by the lay-public as being weak and homosexual, whilst the perpetrator is seen as the dominant, desirable, heterosexual male.

  • The media rarely report the level of violation that the victim can undergo at the hands of an assailant. "Rape" is seen by many as simple an non-consensual penile/vaginal penetration. Further humiliation is incurred when the victim is forced to pleasure the assailant and play an active sexual role. Often the perpetrator will exploit character vulnerabilities, and whilst the penetration may be quite brief, the victim may be held and controlled by the perpetrator for many minutes to hours. It is not unusual for the perpetrator to express the belief that the victim "deserved" to be assaulted, or even in some way is lucky to finally have been taken by a "real man" etc etc. The mental rape of the victim can be far more psychologically damaging in the long term that the physical act itself.

  • Male partners of female victims tend to handle things very badly when told of the rape. Often the victim will not tell her partner for fear of how he will react. One partner of a rape victim told me, in front of her, that the relationship wasn't all that good to begin with "...and then she goes and gets herself raped." Often the partner's reaction can be one of shock and disbelief and then guilt. Often, when the partner is told, he is told a significant period of time after the assault. Suddenly the partner is now faced with the explanation of why his partner has been behaving so screwy recently, and he now experiences guilt over the way he in turn has been behaving towards her.

  • The partner's reaction can complicate issues especially when he responds with the understandable desire to seek retribution. The partner's reaction can effectively (albeit inadvertently) highjack the issue away from the victim as the issue now becomes one of his desire to seek retribution or whatever, and now the victim is experiences a role reversal as the partner grabs the victim status.

  • The partner often undergoes a crisis in which his sexual future is brought into question - i.e. can he ever be passionate with his partner again?

Web Resources

Rape Crisis UK
This site aims to provide the basic information that survivors, friends and family need to access the services they need.

Truth About Rape
"This campaign was formed to challenge myths about rape, and bring the truth and realities of rape back onto the public agenda. Since the launch in November 2002 we been responsible for providing critical comment on a number of media related issues on rape."

Metropolitan Police Advise For Victims of Rape
This information has been provided in consultation with the Sexual Offenses Consultative Group (Metropolitan Police Service) comprising representatives (male and female) from Victims Support Service, Rape Support Agencies, Community Safety Partnerships, Crown Prosecution Service, the medical profession and victims (survivors) together with the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Chief Constables' Council.