Eight in Ten Sexual Violence Victims Seeking Support Diagnosed With Psychiatric Disorder

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From Victim Focus: A new report from the UK organization Victim Focus delves into the experiences of women who sought support after enduring sexual violence against them. Co-authored by Carrie-Anne Bailey and Victim Focus director Jessica Taylor, the Aug. 1 report — ‘I needed to know that I wasn’t crazy’ — is based on survey results from 395 mostly British adult women of varying ages.

Among the findings in the report: 74% of them reported such incidents to their general practitioner, compared with 49% to the police and 47% to their psychologist. “Only 13% of women reported that they felt their healthcare professional had a good understanding of sexual violence and sexual trauma. Many women discussed their disappointment in the lack of empathy and compassion.”

Further: “Psychiatric diagnosis of the women seeking support was common, with 79% of women being formally diagnosed with one or more psychiatric disorders after being subjected to sexual violence, and during the course of seeking support for sexual trauma.”

The most common such diagnoses were “depressive disorder (63%), anxiety disorder (53%), PTSD (42%) and BPD/EUPD (24%).”

Among the themes that emerged in the survey responses: “Many women wrote about their experiences of reaching a crisis point before accessing support. Help became of urgent need.

“However, most noted that this was not a conscious choice but enforced by others. They discussed not being provided with support or seeking help at the time of the abuse because they did not think they needed to or did not know how to get help. The effects of severe emotional distress were an emotional topic within these responses. The women articulated a direct, causal connection between their mental health and the sexual violence they were subjected to, resulting in intense trauma and suffering. By attempting to suppress the consequences of the trauma, they realised this avoidance was the cause of their breakdown, and many women had kept their thoughts and feelings hidden until years later.

“However, concerningly, some found that support was unavailable in their area or could not access the support they needed during the rape or abuse.”

Taylor, author of Sexy But Psycho: How the Patriarchy Uses Women’s Trauma Against Them, was interviewed by Mad in America for its podcast in June. Victim Focus is a trauma-oriented organization that challenges victim blaming and advocates for changes in treatment. Resources including the report can be downloaded for free at https://www.victimfocus.org.uk/resources-for-professionals.

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From the Independent: “Sexual violence survivors told researchers they were informed it would be unlikely they would be eligible for therapy or additional support unless they accepted their psychiatric diagnosis and agreed to take antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.

. . . Dr Taylor said: ‘It shifts the focus from the sexual trauma to being mentally ill. It shifts the focus from the perpetrator to the victim. It individualises what the woman has been subjected to as being in her own head.'”

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