On the third date with a preppy young businessman, a woman
stops at his apartment for drinks. He rapes her.
A police officer chases a drug dealer into a crack house. The
dealer wheels around with what looks like a gun in his hand. The
officer fires one shot and drops the dealer, who had a blowdryer -
not a gun - in his hand.
An elderly flood victim without insurance loses everything in
last summer's deluge.
The rape victim, the police officer and the flood victim in
these examples are good candidates for post-traumatic stress
disorder, a mysterious condition that commonly afflicts victims of
Patricia Resick, a psychologist and professor at the University
of Missouri at St. Louis, has developed a therapy to help them.
Resick is getting a $1 million grant from the National
Institute of Mental Health to treat victims of the disorder, and
she hopes soon to have a trauma research center and clinic that
operate together to serve victims in this area.
The grant follows on the heels of an earlier grant of $1.2
million the institute awarded Resick to study rape victims with the
disorder; that work is continuing.
Resick says rape victims can suffer these symptoms:
- Flashbacks and nightmares.
- Avoidance of reminders of the trauma.
- Hyperarousal - "jumpiness"- and anxiety.
According to Resick, most rape victims initially exhibit
symptoms such as rapid pulse, increased sweating and blinking and
changes in body posture. Within three months, half of these victims
find that the symptoms disappear. The rest continue to suffer from
fear, distrust, insomnia, concentration problems, lack of emotion
and panic episodes. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to treat
What makes the difference?
"If these people were psychologically healthy before, they're
likely to recover," Resick said. Long-term symptoms result when the
victim can't reconcile her long-held beliefs with the traumatic
Before the rape, the date-rape victim in the above example
believed that women weren't raped by people they knew. Rape only
happened to careless women who walked alone on dark streets, she
thought. Now, the woman feels guilty and blames herself: "I asked
for it. I consented. It wasn't rape." She can't sleep. She awakes
in the middle of the night, sweating, after a terrifying
nightmares. She's afraid to leave the house. She hates men.
Before the shooting, the police officer thought he would only
fire his gun if he faced certain death. …