The Rape Victim: A Project of the Committee on Women of the American Psychiatric Association ...

By Elaine Hilberman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
SIX
REACTIONS TO RAPE
Rape is a personal crisis in the sense that the victim must deal with the impact and meaning of the event for herself. Of at least equal importance, rape is a social crisis in that the significant others in the victim's life will also be strongly affected by the event, with the possibility of negative consequences in the relationship between the victim and husband or boyfriend, or in the case of child victims, the parents and schoolmates.Some knowledge of crisis theory is basic to one's understanding of the crisis which rape precipitates. Gross stress has been defined as any unusual influence or force perceived as a threat to a vital goal or need of an individual. Stress reactions represent attempts to defend or restitute the personality from disorganization. While reactions will vary according to one's prior adaptive capacity, coping style, and social support, there seem to be four clinical phases of response, 1, 2 even in adequate life adjustments.
1. Anticipatory or threat phase in which there is a fine balance struck between the need to protect one's illusion of invulnerability "that could never happen to me" while maintaining sufficient reality perception to prepare and protect oneself from real danger. Where a stress is planned, as in elective surgery, working through prior to the event protects ego integrity.
2. Impact phase which lasts for the duration of the stress. Variable degrees of personality disintegration occur which include physiologic patterns of anxiety as well as heightened alertness and attention focused on the present. If the stress is overwhelming, this state of increased vigilance may be followed by diminished alertness, numbness, dulled sensory, affective and memory functions, and disorganized thought content. Thus, in one sample, 3 12-25% of victims were "cool and collected"; 10-25% exhibited inappro

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