Rape Therapy: A Treatment for Rape Victims
While many rape victims heal from rape without the aid of therapy, it is also common to receive professional rape therapy. In fact, many therapies have been studied in rape treatment for decades. Therapy for rape victims can include one-on-one therapy, group therapy and even, in some cases, pharmacotherapy (medication) used alongside other therapies.
The type of rape therapy used depends a lot on the individual and their circumstance but common rape therapies include:1
- Stress inoculation therapy
- Prolonged exposure therapy
- Cognitive processing therapy
- Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR)
- Supportive counseling
Stress inoculation therapy, prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy are all considered cognitive behavioral therapies.
Many treatments for rape victims focus on treating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as that is what women typically suffer from if trauma from the sexual assault is experienced long-term.
Types of Rape Therapy for Treatment of Rape
Stress Inoculation Rape Therapy
Stress inoculation rape therapy was developed to treat those with elevated fear and anxiety as well as specific avoidance behaviors (such as avoiding walking in the dark). Stress inoculation rape therapy includes three phases:2
- Education – explains that fear is a normal response to trauma. Also teaches about cues that may trigger fear (such as places that remind the victim of the rape).
- Skill building – rape victims are taught to control their fear reactions physically and psychologically. This includes cognitive behavioral techniques like thought stopping, mental rehearsal and guided self-talk.
- Application – victims now use their new skills to engage in fearful behavior. They are also taught to avoid self-criticism and manage avoidance behavior as well as reward themselves for their progress.
Stress inoculation therapy has been shown to be successful in treating the symptoms of PTSD in rape victims.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged exposure rape therapy is also known as flooding and is a way of desensitizing a person to the trauma of rape through repeated exposures to memories of the traumatic event. In prolonged exposure therapy, victims are asked to repeatedly recount their rape as well as confront situations in real life that remind them of the rape. Victims also listen to tape-recorded sessions telling of the rape to increase exposure.
Prolonged exposure rape therapy has been found to treat PTSD as well as feelings of depression and guilt associated with the trauma.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive processing rape therapy is designed to help people suffering from PTSD and depression. In this rape treatment, education, exposure and cognitive techniques are used. Victims are encouraged to identify parts of the trauma with "inadequately processed emotions" associated with them, known as "stuck points."
Cognitive processing rape therapy has been shown to effectively treat PTSD, depression and guilt as well as other feelings associated with the rape.
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitization reprocessing is a therapy specifically designed to address trauma survivors. EMDR involves exposure therapy alongside cognitive techniques. During an EMDR session, a rape victim recounts the sexual assault scene while focused on the movement of a physical object like the therapist's finger. The external attention required is theorized to allow the reprocessing of the event.
EMDR is a somewhat controversial treatment in that some feel the eye movement is unnecessary but in small studies it appears that EMDR can be used to treat PTSD and depression in assault victims.
Supportive Counseling Rape Therapy
Supportive counseling rape therapy is used in many rape crisis intervention centers. The therapist provides unconditional positive regard, active listening and general support. While this type of therapy may be appropriate immediately after a trauma, in comparison studies, cognitive behavioral therapies are generally more effective.
Paying for Rape Therapy
It is worth noting that many states have victim's compensation programs that may allow for payment of the therapy for rape victims. Generally this requires reporting the rape to the police and then applying to the program. Your local police will have more information on this program.
Last Updated: 26 May 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD