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If I Only Had a Heart...

my sexual violence survivor story

...SEXUAL ASSAULT AND TRAUMA
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RAPE TRAUMA SYNDROME
Many survivors will experience symptoms of rape trauma syndrome or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These can include sleep disturbance - insomnia/nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, sexual concerns and flashbacks. Survivors may also experience problems with self injury, eating disorders and addictions. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to respond to rape. Whatever you are feeling is O.K. For more details on the diagnostic criteria and the symptoms of PTSD please see below.
PTSD
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnostic criteria:
1. Exposure to a traumatic event(s)
2. The re-experiencing of the event in the forms of dreams, flashbacks, intrusive memories, or unrest at being in situations that remind you of the event
3. Avoidance behaviour - a numbing of emotions, reduced interest in others and the outside world and avoidance of situations that trigger memories of the event
4. Hyper arousal - insomnia, agitation, irritability, panic attacks, outburst of rage
5. The symptoms persist for more than one month

Other Symptoms:
Denial
Survivor or performance guilt
Depression
Reckless behaviour
Difficulty concentrating
Disassociation
Shame 
Anxiety
Addictions - alcohol or drug use, eating disorders, self injury 
Fears and phobias
Anger

Summarised from the following:
Matsakis, A. I Can't Get Over It: A Handbook for Trauma Survivors, Oakland, Harbinger Publications Inc, 1996.
Winn. L. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Dramatherapy, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd, 1994

EFFECTS OF CHILD ABUSE
Initial and Long-Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
Possible initial effects of child sexual abuse (those occurring within two years of the termination of the abuse):
Depression
Guilt
Shame
Fears and phobias
Anger and hostility
Low self-esteem and feeling of inferiority 
Anxiety
Sleep and eating disturbances

Effects on sexuality:
Open masturbation
Excessive sexual curiosity
Frequent exposure of genitals

Effects on Social Functioning
Difficulties at school including truancy 
Anti-social and disruptive behaviour
Running away from home

Possible long-term effects of child sexual abuse:
Depression
Self destructive tendencies e.g. self-harm, eating disorders
Anxiety
Sleep disturbances
Nervousness
Dissociation
Multiple personality
Psychosomatic pains
Obsessive compulsive disorders
PTSD
 
Effects on self esteem: 
Feelings of isolation
Feelings of stigmatisation
Negative self image

Impact on Interpersonal Relating:
Difficulties relating to both women and men 
Conflict with parents
Discomfort in responding to their own children 
Difficulty trusting others
Reactions of fear, hostility, and sense of betrayal to others
Fear of sex partners 
Vulnerability to re-victimisation

Effects on sexuality: 
Avoidance or abstinence from sex 
A compulsive desire for sex
Low levels of sexual self-esteem
Not sexually responsive
Fear
Vaginismus 
Dyspareunia 
Oversexualisation 
Impaired orgasm/arousal

Effects on social functioning: 
Prostitution
Substance abuse 
Difficulty trusting others 
Fear of intimacy

Summarised from:
Finkelhor, D. A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse, London, SAGE Publications Ltd, 1986.
Sanderson, S. Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd,
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