Coping with sexual violence and PTSD


Rape and sexual violence have become weapons of war in conflict-ridden countries around the world. Treatment services are limited.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at psychotherapy treatments for sexual violence survivors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Group therapy appeared to achieve the most dramatic results in reducing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.

Helping women in poor, unstable countries

“Survivors of sexual violence have high rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms,” noted Judith K. Bass, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study and assistant professor of Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health. “We know what works for treating these victims in developed countries, but very little has been done to determine what treatments can help women in war-torn, resource-poor settings.”

Providing CPT for the survivors of rape

For more than 20 years, the DRC has been in conflict. As many as 40 percent of the women have been raped as victims of war.

Researchers worked with the International Rescue Committee and local psychosocial workers to provide survivors with Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). The CPT consisted of one individual session and 11 group sessions.

All participants were screened for PTSD, depression and anxiety. Six months after CPT treatment, only 9 percent of the women continued to have symptoms of PTSD, compared to 42 percent of the women who had individual support.

Women overcome shame to contribute again

“We saw women, who had once felt too stigmatized to be a part of their community, re-engage after receiving CPT, and they expressed that they felt they could again be productive members of their families and communities,” concluded Bass.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, MedicalNewsToday


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