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Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, Ph.D.

Dr. Dorothy, Hypnotherapist, is an internationally recognized authority on bridging Science, Spirit, and Human Potential with over 30+ years experience.

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Physiological Aftereffects of Rape

Rape includes both an emotional and physical trauma. It is not surprising that many survivors of rape report psychological distress in situations of sexual intimacy, as well as, feeling a physical distress.

It is difficult to distinguish whether the physical anxiety toward sex has an emotional basis, or if the physical symptoms are due to the physical trauma of rape. Burgess and Holmstrom (1979) propose that “in any sexual situation, a negative psychological reaction to sex has the potential to develop into an aversion,” (Burgess and Holmstrom, 1979, p. 652). They also emphatically believe that it is important to accept the existence of physiological problems.

Within a short period after the rape there are physical reactions that often take place. Burgess and Holmstrom (1974) posit that these physical reactions are very real, but that they may also stem from the psychological trauma.

  • Overall soreness and bruising from the assault. Irritation and trauma to the throat are common when the women is forced to perform oral sex.
  • Tension headaches, fatigue, and sleep disturbance (ie. not able to fall asleep, able to fall asleep and wake suddenly, crying or screaming in sleep).
  • Appetite may be affected (ie. feel nauseated from antipregnancy medication, unable to eat at all, survivors may feel nauseated thinking about the rape).
  • Vaginal discharge, itching, and a burning sensation during urination are common. Also chronic yeast infections may ensue, as well as, rectal bleeding if the survivor was forced to have anal sex.

These physical symptoms may make sexual intercourse uncomfortable and unwanted for the survivor until the rape has been sufficiently resolved/processed. The greater the amount of physical reactions, the more likely the woman is to abstain or avoid sexual relations. These physical reactions seem to be common in survivors of stranger rape and acquaintance rape. This may be due to the similarities in the experiences of the survivors.

Both types of rape include:

  • Forced sexual intercourse.
  • Violation of the survivor’s body.
  • Destruction of control.
  • Loss of control of body, life, and course of events.
  • Feeling violated, degradated, humiliated, and the shock of vulnerability (Bechhofer and Parrot, 1991).
  • These shared characteristics may lead to a similar reaction in physiological functions.

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