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Psychobiological correlates of rape in female adolescents

By I.A.E. Bicanic


A considerable percentage of youth in the Netherlands has been victimized by rape during adolescence. The present research shows that adolescence rape is correlated with high levels of psychological distress, neurobiological dysregulations and increased risk for problems with sexual and pelvic floor functioning. These results are comparable to results from previous research in chronic sexual abuse victims, suggesting that problems related to single rape are serious and should receive sufficient attention in prevention and treatment strategies. The results of this research further suggested that psychological and biological dysregulations correlated to rape may normalize after evidence based psychological treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Also, younger adolescents who have experienced a completed rape by someone close appeared to be at risk for delayed disclosure of rape, i.e. disclosure after one week-post-rape. Moreover, delayed disclosers were less likely to use medical services and to report to the police compared to early disclosers. The results of the present research encourage the improvement of current post-rape services in the Netherlands for adolescents, as they represent the largest group of victims. One possibility is the establishment of a national network of Sexual Assault Centers for acute victims similar to centers in Scandinavian countries. These centers use a multidisciplinary approach, implying that medical, psychological and forensic disciplines work together on one location. There is evidence suggesting that such an approach facilitates recovery from rape and increases chances of apprehension of the offender. This is important because victims who do not recover – and who develop subsequent PTSD – are at risk for sexual revictimization. The first Dutch Sexual Assault Center was established in Utrecht in 2012. The first results show that most victims who consulted this center within one week post-assault were females between 12 and 25 years. Also, a substantial proportion of the sample reported risk factors for PTSD and revictimization, such as prior victimization, pre-existing use of mental health services and not living with both biological parents. One third of the cases reported to the police, which is above national report percentages of 10%. To establish a network of Sexual Assault Centers in the Netherlands involved disciplines must be engaged and passionate about the issue as there are various bumps in the road. Second, involved disciplines need to have enough power and expertise. Third, they need to be in this for the long-haul. In conclusion, adolescence rape is a serious problem and efforts should be made to raise public awareness about its potential impact on (mental) health, but also about (early) evidence based treatments for PTSD such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy and EMDR. It is of great importance that rape-related PTSD is treated effectively as there is evidence suggesting that PTSD symptomatology may enhance sexual assault victims’ risk for revictimization via a number of mechanisms

Topics: Rape, Sexual assault, PTSD, treatment, revictimization, multidisciplinary, disclosure, HPA-axis, sexual problems
Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2014
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Provided by: NARCIS
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