RR-PTSD (Rape Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a term used in the trauma world to express the reactions and symptoms of the aftershock of sexual assault, whether that is a one incident, domestic abuse setting and/or violation in childhood. It is not an endorsed diagnosis but it is a valuable platform to use when working with those affected by rape and sexual violence. The good news is that individuals can and do move on and live fulfilled and happy lives.

It was less than twenty years ago that special measures such as (screens, live links, private evidence, removal of gowns and wigs, video recorded interviews and intermediary examination) in court, became available for those affected by rape and sexual violation. Previously all that was on hand to comfort survivors, was a box of tissues and somewhere to sit. How things have moved on since then! New research into working with PTSD has identified excellent processing techniques and trauma specialist services, both independent and within health services are in operation across many countries.

Engaging with therapies that offer a combined processing model of release for both the mind and body is crucial for moving forward. Some of the most effective treatments available are as follows:

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing)

 Researched and evidenced intervention for multiple traumas to suit individuals who were sexually abused over a period of time in their childhood, the treatment itself can help a survivor of sexual abuse to release the unprocessed information, traumatic and distressing images, body memories and intense feelings. It can lessen the impact and allow the client to be free of the ‘trauma fog’ that may have taken up so much of their thinking time.

BSP (Brainspotting)

 A powerful, focused treatment methodthat works by identifying, processing and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation and a variety of other challenging symptoms.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Those affected by rape and sexual violence often carry the trauma within cells and muscular system of their body and it can feel difficult to feel safe again. Dr Pat Ogden developed Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, it is a therapy that works somatically (physiological memory) with both the mind and body so that the traumatic memory can beprocessed effectively allowing for lessened impact, thus leaving no residue of the traumaticmemory.

Bowen Technique

Bowen moves anatomically allow both the practitioner and client to be at optimum calmness, providing an environment to explore exactly how their body is responding to challenges in their life, environment, and their work, to help to understand their stress patterns which can be reflected in their physiological presentations. 

Guided Visualisation
This is very powerful tool to assist clientsespecially when dealing with childhood sexual trauma, such as sexual assault. It allows the client to go back, to revisit, and to make changes in situations that they were not able to do anything about as children. Like a tidal wave, the effects of childhood sexual abuse can saturate an adult throughout their life, Guided Visualisation Audio CD’s or Streaming provision, allows the choice of time and space in the safety of one’s own environment where disturbance can be minimal and relaxation can be attained in order to feel the letting go of many painful memories.

Therapy & Colouring Workbooks

A powerful use of solitary mindfulness and a direct calming mechanism for those suffering from RR-PTSD by completely focusing and colouring, it can quite quickly disperse any hyper vigilance response to be lessened and allow the mind to have some ‘me time’ and a welcome release of pent up thoughts and feelings, opening up new avenues towards empowerment and growth

Basic counselling has its place, however, as a standalone intervention, it can sometimes exacerbate the impacted hijacked brain further, embedding toxic thoughts and feelings which can cause crushing rumination of the event for the survivor, leaving them in emotional turmoil. It is only by cognitively and/or physically processing traumatic information that individuals affected, can work with transferring it to a different part of the brain which includes replicating the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) process, whilst in the waking state.

If there is anywhere where those affected by rape and sexual violation will most definitely be believed and given plenty of support, it is the nearest rape centre. Male centres are gradually popping up all over the country and can be located via a simple internet search.  
In the United Kingdom there are forty five organisations that are members of Rape Crisis, providing services in 56 locations across England and Wales. In addition to this, there are also independent and charitable organisations that provide assistance. 

A network of suitable support, decided by the client can be crucial during recovery and post traumatic growth after rape and sexual violence. Some may feel that they need a different approach to run alongside the intensive and often emotionally turbulent interventions, working towards post traumatic growth.Trauma Informed Yoga, which helps to build resilience and to re empower the body. Just as beneficial in its own way there are interventions such as Sacral Cranial Therapy which can be a crucial resource in the treatment of shock and trauma.

When a professional is told by someone that they have been raped or sexually violated, whether as an adult or a child, it can be like being passed a box containing a fragile glass ball. They are relating their experience because they trust that person to hold the fragility of that glass ball with every ounce of care, understanding and kindness that can be mustered. 

Those working on the frontline must be careful not to break that glass, shattering what self-worth and courage the client has bravely managed to hang on to until this point. The honest and very real expectation of each and every survivor is quite simply that they will be treated with respect, dignity and basic human kindness. If, for whatever reason, this is unavailable, then a referral can be made just as kindly.

It’s fair to say that professionals working in this field need to have a prerequisite to believe everything that they are told, to let go of judgements and to be in awe of the survivors of rape and sexual violence who sit or stand before them, because these are the real warriors, the strong and the courageous. They have been through the most horrifying ordeals, the most invasive and physically abusive assaults, and they have survived. Practitioners are but a conduit of their onward journey to recovery and it is crucial that they give courage, respect and understanding always, to these heroic individuals.

Sue J Daniels
MBACP & UKRC (Snr Accred).
EMDR Accredited Practitioner
Professional Counsellor &
Trauma Specialist

The following books supporting this article are available on Amazon and all major high street and online book stores…

Trauma Therapeutic Workbook: 80 Key Points for Working Towards Post Traumatic Growth (Therapy Workbooks)

Working with the Trauma of Rape and Sexual Violence: A Guide for Professionals

#Me Time: Therapeutic Workbook for those affected by rape and sexual violence

The Splinter Audio CD: A Guided Visualisation for Those Affected by Sexual Violence and Assault

Little Book of Strength: For Survivors of Rape and Sexual Violence