You Asked: What Are the Effects of Rape?

There are a wide range of short-term and long-term psychological effects that an individual victim may experience. The nature of the assault, use of a weapon, threats, violence, serious physical injuries, and relationship to the offender are some of the factors that can differentially affect the impact of rape on a particular victim. Those with a previous history of sexual abuse or other trauma are likely to be more severely affected by rape.

The immediate effects a victim may experience include shock, confusion, numbness, fear, anger, withdrawal, self-blame, guilt, shame, and denial. In the following weeks, victims often experience intense and unpredictable emotions, nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, problems concentrating, feeling unsafe, and isolating from family and friends. Some victims may have great difficulty functioning in their daily life. Others cope by blocking their memories and feelings. Many cling to a semblance of normality as a way to deny the impact of their experience.

In the months following a rape, victims often have symptoms of depression or traumatic stress. They are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs to control their symptoms. Nearly one-third have thoughts of suicide, and approximately 17% actually attempt suicide. Thirty-percent of victims will go on to develop Major Depressive or Post-traumatic Stress Disorders in their lifetime. Long-term negative effects on sexuality and the ability to form or maintain trusting relationships are common.

You may have noticed I have avoided gender pronouns. Although we most often think of females as rape victims, males are also victimized (estimates range from 10%- 20%). The effects on male victims are similar to those on female victims, but they are more likely to experience intense anger and aggression. They are also less likely to tell anyone about their experience or to seek help. Because the vast majority of offenders are men, it is not uncommon for male victims to question their own sexual orientation after the event.

It is essential for rape victims to seek help from mental health professionals with specialized training and experience. Rape crisis centers throughout the U.S. offer immediate support and counseling to help victims recover. You can search for a center in your community through RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). You can also call their hotline 1.800.656.HOPE, or speak to someone online for information and support. The following video explains how the hotlines work and the kind of help available at rape crisis centers.

Back to School Safety Tips

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a safety fact sheet for older children going to and from school. It goes into detail about the usual stranger safety tips (for example, not accepting rides), but there are a few less obvious tips for parents:
Instruct your children to always take a friend, always stay in well-lit areas, never take shortcuts, and never go into isolated areas.

Instruct your children to leave items and clothing with their name on them at home. If anyone calls out their name, teach them to not be fooled or confused.

In the event your children may be lost or injured, make sure they carry a contact card with your name and telephone numbers such as work and cellular.
Free Two Happy Girls Holding Hands Walking to School at Sunrise Creative Commons
The fact sheet also includes safety rules for children. Here are two of them:

ALWAYS TAKE A FRIEND with you when walking, biking,or standing at the bus stop. Make sure you know your bus number and which bus to ride.

NEVER LEAVE SCHOOL GROUNDS before the regular school day ends. Always check with the office before leaving school early.

I encourage parents to read the entire fact sheet here. It's also available as a downloadable color poster in both English and Spanish.

Have a safe school year!

The Question ADHD Kids Dread Most

September is National Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness Month. Most activities will happen during AD/HD Awareness Week (September 14-20). I think there may also be an Awareness Day in there somewhere. This gives everyone multiple chances to celebrate if they forget to pay attention the first time around.

I'm starting off the month by raising awareness of what it's like to be a kid with ADHD. Parents frequently express their frustrations about managing their ADHD children. But unless they have it themselves (and there is a strong likelihood that one parent does), it is very difficult to imagine what it's like from a child's point-of-view.

Let's begin with the question kids with ADHD dread most......WHY?!!?!?
  • Why didn't you turn in your homework?
  • Why don't you pay attention in class?
  • Why didn't you come home in time for dinner?
  • Why didn't you do your chores after school?
  • Why didn't you do what I asked you to do?
  • Why didn't you finish your project?
  • Why don't you stop and think before doing (fill in the blank)?
Children quickly learn that the following answers are not what parents want to hear:
  • I forgot.
  • It's too boring.
  • I didn't know what time it was.
  • I was going to do them later.
  • I didn't hear you.
  • I didn't feel like it.
  • I don't know!!
Of course this is frustrating for parents. It's easy to interpret their child's behavior as carelessness, defiance, laziness, or inconsideration. As a result, parents react with reprimands, lectures, and punishment. Children may apologize and promise not to do it again, but this stops working after the 20th, 30th, or 50th time. They then try denial, blaming others, and elaborate "stories" to avoid parents' anger and further punishment. Parents eventually catch on and stop trusting their child. Increasing conflict and lack of trust (on both sides) makes it impossible to engage in constructive problem-solving. These negative patterns of interaction are often well-established before a child is diagnosed. The resulting damage to family relationships and a child's self-esteem is hard to reverse. This is why an early diagnosis and professional help are so important.

This brings us back to ADHD Awareness Week. The goal this year is to "raise awareness about the importance of identifying and treating this potentially debilitating disorder early in life." (See more about CHADD's campaign here.)

Here are 10 more reasons CHADD members give for why an early diagnosis is important.