Sonntag, 23. August 2009

Healing the Green Soul - helping victims of rape crimes

Posted by @sp4rrowh4wk on

****This information is "first response", it is important to work with a local counselor, therapist, psychologist familiar with trauma-specific therapy on a regular basis as soon as possible.****

this information is provided by a therapist with specialized training in the treatment of the psychological effects of sexual and other abuse in both adults & children. they have worked in this field for almost 20 years. their blog appears here:
Healing the Green Soul

all information appearing in this post is reprinted directly from that blog, or modified from the same user's posts elsewhere in this forum.

this is a list of "first response" actions for those who have incurred psychological damage due to assault, sexual abuse, torture or imprisonment. It is not to take the place of professional intervention. The intended audience is the friends and families of survivors of rape and other abuse who have recently been released from detention in Iran.

please feel free to repost elsewhere. please do not add to this information, except to post translations. my therapist friend assures me that much more harm than good may come of unqualified interference from well meaning people who have good intentions, but lack sufficient training and experience.

as a combat veteran myself, and a witness and participant in much of the last two months here, i am in complete agreement with them.

this information is intended to help families of victims who have absolutely no experience in dealing with these issues. it is important to realize that in the Persian Gulf, rape is severely stigmatized, and the victim is often blamed as much or more than the perpetrator.

translations in any language are welcome. i will be (carefully) going to the university later tonight. God willing, i will return with some assistance. @onlyMehdi on Twitter will be attempting to post a translation on Healing the Green Soul .

Triage for emotional trauma resulting from abuse

1. It is normal to feel "numb" or to have mood swings. It is important for family, friends & loved ones not to criticize. Pay attention for signs of self-harm or aggression toward others. If a survivor seems suicidal or homicidal, seek professional help immediately.

2. It is important for family, loved ones, & friends to let the survivor know he/she is not alone and they are there to support the survivor.

3. One of the psychic injuries of rape, torture and/or trauma is a lack of control. Allow the survivor to do as much as he/she is able and wants to do. Listen if they want to talk, but do not push for information. This helps decrease anxiety & assists in regaining a sense of control.

4. It is crucial to get professional help as soon as possible from someone trained in providing treatment to survivors. The closer in time treatment starts, the less severe the long-term aspects. For physical & sexual abuse immediate medical attention is crucial.

5. Be aware of "masking", a far away, blank expression with survivors. This is an indicator of "flashbacks" or disassociation (becoming unaware of the environment but still able to speak, act, etc.). If observed, using a repeated meaningful word (ex. 'safe' or 'home') & gently touching the person (if they are not reactive to touch) or maintaining eye contact will help keep the person in the "here & now".

6. If nightmares & sleepwalking occur, do not wake the person. Try to guide them back to bed. Monitor the survivor during their sleepwalking to prevent injury.

7. It is common for a person to feel fine & not show any symptoms for 6-12 months after the last abuse incident, then suddenly start to show symptoms (ie, crying, lack of sleep, or anxiety attacks). This is part of the reason immediate treatment is crucial. It prevents the development of symptoms.

8. Many times the thoughts and feelings of the abuse are too strong for words. It is helpful for the survivor to write, draw, read poetry, sculpt, paint or create to let go of these emotions. It also helps the survivor in gaining a sense of control.

9. The survivor might emotionally distance him/herself from loved ones & friends. This is similar to a cast for a broken bone. While respecting the individual's space, be there for them. Sit in silence with them, eat meals together, walk together. This provides the survivor with a sense of belonging and security.

10. Remember, if the person is alive and away from the one who inflicted the abuse, the person is no longer a victim: they are a survivor who is recovering from the abuse. Caregivers & friends should avoid expressions of pity. Instead, please express admiration for the strength, courage, and creativity it took for the person to survive the abuse.

11. Avoid saying what you want to happen to the perpetrator of the abuse. The survivor gains a sense of control and power when deciding consequences for the abuser.

12. Certain sounds, odors, sights, or even movements may "trigger" memories of the abuse. These triggers can cause flashbacks or disassociation. The survivor needs to avoid the triggers until a professional is able to help him/her become desensitized (non-reactive) to the trigger.

13. Caregivers, friends & family member need to avoid projecting their emotions into the survivors experiences. Example: Survivor talks about about being beaten with a baton. Family member says,"You must have been mad". FAIL The caregiver does not know how the survivor felt; this takes away the survivor's right to feel whatever he/she wants, and the survivor might not be ready to deal with the feelings.*

Helpful response: "what were you feeling or thinking when that happened?" Caregivers need to be ready to accept the survivor's response.

*Often when people are imprisoned or abused for a long time they develop Stockholm Syndrome ( this functions as a survival mechanism, and builds a positive emotional relationship with the perpetrator). Trained professionals need to work through Stockholm Syndrome with the survivor due to the sensitivity of the thought & emotional issues.

14. Routine, structure, and predictability are extremely important to undo the shock,fear, anxiety, and unpredictability of trauma. Routine and structure also help decrease symptoms of depression.

15. Attending groups with others who have had similar experiences under the guidance of a professional are helpful to decrease the feelings isolation & help with feelings of shame & guilt.

16. Family members, friends & caregivers are likely to experience secondary trauma with emotional symptoms similar to a person who has experienced abuse first hand (this is especially true for children whose parent has been traumatized). Professional help & support groups are helpful.

Special considerations for children

1. Children who have been sexually abused are especially vulnerable because the have not been exposed to sexual issues. A talk about "good touch/bad touch" helps to keep "private parts" private.

2. Children tend to "play out" (demonstrate in their playing) what they do not understand. Abused & traumatized children need to be supervised with peers & redirected if they try to "play out" the abuse. It is important to have traumatized children work with a professional who specializes in doing trauma specific therapy to help the child in developing appropriate interaction skills with other children.

3. Children usually do not have the words to talk about what happened or their feelings regarding these events. Encourage drawing, painting, and puppet or doll play to help them completely express (in ways they are able) what has happened and their feelings.

4. Help the child identify their "special people" (those with whom the child has a positive bond) to go to when the child does not feel safe. It is helpful to have the child carry a picture or some other kind of remembrance of the person. Special toys (stuffed animals, dolls, action figures) are also helpful in this regard.

The most important thing to do to help a survivor of abuse, rape, torture or imprisonment...

Believe what they tell you about their experiences

****This information is "first response", it is important to work with a local counselor, therapist, psychologist familiar with trauma-specific therapy on a regular basis as soon as possible.******

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