International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2019: PTSD in rape and domestic violence victims

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by directly experiencing or witnessing very stressful, terrifying or distressing events.

Myupchar November 25, 2019 07:00:17 IST
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International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2019: PTSD in rape and domestic violence victims
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by directly experiencing or witnessing very stressful, terrifying or distressing events

  • Many women who have been a victim of domestic violence, be it physical, sexual, verbal or economic, might suffer from PTSD

  • Healing from PTSD takes time and patience, it's not linear

Every 25 November, the United Nations (UN) observes International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Day. This year, the theme is "Orange the world: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape". According to the UN, one in every three women experiences sexual or physical violence in their lifetime, often by an intimate partner.

In India, the National Crime Records Bureau's (NCRB's) “Crime in India-2017” report showed that "cruelty by husband or his relatives" accounted for the highest number of cases recorded in the crimes against women category in 2017. About 104,551 cases of domestic violence were reported. The same year, 32,559 cases of rape were reported, according to the NCRB.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2019 PTSD in rape and domestic violence victims

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

 

Also read: Why rape is a medical emergency

The journey of recovery after such trauma is a long one. A whiff of familiar cologne is all it takes to make a violence survivor remember the feel of their abuser’s fingers around their neck. Sometimes the rib the abuser broke could start to ache. For a long time, there was a misconception that only military veterans who encountered life-threatening events like military combat and terrorist attacks suffered from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But now doctors believe that even victims of rape and abusive relationships can have PTSD.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by directly experiencing or witnessing very stressful, terrifying or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic incident through nightmares and flashbacks. Many women who have been a victim of domestic violence, be it physical, sexual, verbal or economic, might suffer from PTSD. Women who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in immediate danger.

What are the signs of PTSD?

Someone with PTSD might be unable to sleep or have trouble sleeping (insomnia). They may experience overwhelming feelings of sadness, fear, despair, guilt or self-hatred. They may have difficulty concentrating and have a pessimistic thought process about everything.

A friend or family member could also notice the following:

  • A person with PTSD would have intrusive memories of the abuse so they suffer from severe anxiety all the time.
  • They may sometimes exhibit self-destructive behaviour.
  • They give an exaggerated startled response to even the slightest noise.
  • They might lose interest in all activities and be depressed.
  • You might see them agitated, aggressive and irritated as they are unable to share their emotions.

How can one help women with PTSD?

Healing from PTSD takes time and patience, it’s not linear. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed into law in 2006 by the Parliament of India. This law was enforced to protect women who were suffering from domestic violence.

One must encourage these women to report the abuser and seek help. Psychotherapies may be used to handle the multiple stressors of violence survivors, including the immediate need for safety and resources, loss of an intimate relationship, social isolation, and parenting issues.

HOPE, which stands for Helping to Overcome PTSD through Empowerment. It is a cognitive-behavioural treatment for violence survivors with PTSD. They work on five areas of dysfunctions that are safety, trust, power/control, esteem, and intimacy.

Medications that decrease the cortisol (stress hormone) and increases serotonin and dopamine (neurotransmitters that induce good feelings) can help these women to deal with anxiety and depression.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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