Rape Trauma Syndrome
Forensic Psychology 44.343.201
By: Hannah Elliott
October 14th 2012
There are plenty of television shows and cases on the news that show or talk about rape victims, but it doesn’t impact us as much as it should. Do you know the mental or emotional trauma that these victims go through after they have become a rape victim? Rape is one of the harshest forms of criminal violence against another human being. The victim is rendered powerless by physical force, threats, or fear after which being forced to submit to sexual acts, including vaginal penetration, oral copulation, sodomy. The victim suffers intrusion to the most private and intimate parts of the body and a person’s life. These victims do not only experience immediate trauma, but long term and sometimes, permanent trauma can occur. Victims who appear to have healed months after the trauma will always have flashbacks or things that trigger feelings to come back to the surface. Ann Wolbert Burgess and Lynda Lytle Holmstrom first coined the termed Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) about thirty years ago after analyzing ninety-two rape victims that were admitted to the emergency room of Boston City Hospital. They recognized this syndrome as a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and defined Rape Trauma Syndrome as an ‘acute stress reaction to a life-threatening situation (Bourke, 2012).’ They studied cases that happened prior to 1969 and observed how the laws changed over decades to include the victim in the court process instead of just protecting them. Burgess and Holmstrom also divided the Rape Trauma Syndrome into two different phases to help diagnose the victims and help them in the healing process and to come to terms with the trauma that happened to them. The victims of crimes have been around since the early developments of the country but they have never been involved in the court process like they are in today’s century. During the Golden Age, which blossomed about two hundred years ago in England, the victim had a lot of sway over how thing turned out (Doerner & Lab, 2011). The victim could have a personal say in imposing punishments on their offenders. For example, the offender stole some crops from a neighbor; the victim could say that wanted their offender hung. This was very popular during this time as there was not too many court systems put into place or being enforced, which made it easier for victims to have a say in how the offender got punished. The second phase of the history of victims is known as the Dark Period. During this stage, each state and country had a different standard of laws. These laws stated that they were more concerned with the society than the individual victim. The punishments the offenders received were based on how the court system believed the society would want for them, rather than just having the victims influence over the sentences (Doerner & Lab, 2011). The final phase, reemergence of the victim, started in the 1950s when a small number of people began to recognize that the people who were affected the most by the criminal acts were rarely involved in the court process (Turvey & Petherick, 2009). During this time the civil rights and women movements played a role in finding a way to see the victim as a human being who was traumatized during a criminal event. This phase led to the present day victimology and multiple different ways to protect the victim and help victims cope with their trauma. Many people experience Physical, Psychological and behavioral problems after suffering a serious trauma, such as being disabled in a car accident or losing someone they love (Hansson, 2009). These complications are known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder is a normal reaction to a stressful situation, which a person wouldn’t usually encounter. Different traumas produce different reactions. Rape for example, is not just unwanted sex; it is a highly traumatic experience...
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