The Psychological Adjustment of the Rape Victim

Topics: Sexual intercourse, Human sexual behavior, Rape Pages: 6 (2125 words) Published: December 20, 2012

Date: 10/05/2012
Author: South Eastern CASA
Website Address:

[pic]This article is written for women and assumes a male offender, however SECASA acknowledges that both men and women can be survivors of sexual abuse and that offenders can be male and female. Delivered at the Psychiatry, Psychology and the Law Congress, Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, November, 1980 Lesley Hewitt, Social Worker, Sexual Assault Clinic, Queen Victoria Medical Centre, MELBOURNE. Reproduced here with the Authors kind permission.

No part of this article may be reproduced in any way without the express permission of the author. Note to readers; Although this article is over 20 years old, it contains information that some may find relevant which is why we have included it.

Sexual assault is an act of violence that is by definition against the victim's will. The victim is forced to submit to genital, oral and/or anal sexual acts and often to other aggression, abuse and degradation. The attacker controls the situation by the use of physical force, threats of harm and intimidation. The victim fears she is going to be killed or injured. In our experience most victims have perceived that their survival is dependent on compliance and submission to the offender's demands. Sexual assault is an arbitrary event in the victim's lifestyle. It is sudden, unexpected and unpredictable. She is faced with a life threatening situation that she is unable to effectively resolve. Her usual methods of coping with threats and conducting interpersonal relationships fail her. It is a violation of her physical self and her basic beliefs and assumptions about her environment, about other people and relationships and about herself. As a result women may experience severe psychological effects. The way the victim copes with the trauma of rape is dependent on several factors. These include her ego strength her social network support, her life cycle stage and the way she is treated as a victim. On 20th May, 1978, the National Times noted that "The Honolulu Star Bulletin" recently reported that Judge Robert V. Richardson had dismissed a rape charge against a motorist who had allegedly knocked down a woman jogger and raped her. The Judge dismissed the rape action because he believed that the woman who was dazed after the accident "did not put up enough resistance." This statement illustrates the degree to which women are still held to be responsible for or in some way complicit with the act of rape. Despite many changes that have occurred in the treatment of rape victims, there still exists in our society ignorance about, and ambivalence towards the rape victim, causing for many an additional stress. To date, there has been little well controlled research on the psychological adjustment of the victim. Most sexual assault clinics have been concerned with providing support and treatment to the victim rather than systematic evaluation. Professionals have been reluctant to subject rape victims to intrusive evaluation procedures. Their treatment needs have been the primary focus of such clinics.

Sexual Assault Clinic - Queen Victoria Medical Centre
The Queen Victoria Medical Centre operates a 24 hour Sexual Assault Clinic for male and female victims. 7 Social workers provide the counselling component of the service which has been operating since May 1979. Prior to this, counselling was offered on a referral basis. The main source of referral was and still is the police. Consequently the medical examination is usually performed by one of the police surgeons who treat any injuries and collect evidence for legal proceedings. Follow-up routine testing for possible venereal disease and pregnancy is also provided. Counselling and medical services are also available to those who choose not to report to police. In the...
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