How to Treat Sexual Assault Trauma Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :


Sexual assault can traumatize the victim and lead to major life issues, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The victim may develop deeply disturbing mental issues that lead the victim to become a sexual abuser later on in life, which has been found to be the case especially for victims abused in childhood (Groth & Burgess, 1979). Trauma affects every individual differently. Some are aware of the issue and seek help. Others attempt to self-medicate by turning to drugs or alcohol or risky sexual behavior, which further leads to destructive behavior. Others are unaware that they have been traumatized and struggle to understand or deal with their emotions. This paper will discuss treatment available for victims of sexual assault, ways to prevent it, and how prevention is being implemented.


One of the most common forms of treatment for sexual assault trauma is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on identifying the negative emotions, factors and triggers that will cause a person to enter into a negative state that then leads them into all manner of various other harmful activities. Once these factors are identified, the person can then begin to focus on more positive responses and behaviors to help prevent the slide into destructive behavior or the kind of negative mental and emotional states that lead to a lower quality of life (ABCT, 2019).

According to the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT, 2019), sexual assault trauma can be so damaging because “during a sexual assault, the survivor has to deal with feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty about whether he or she will survive.” This feeling of powerlessness can overwhelm one’s psychology and create an internal sense of self-doubt and helplessness. It can cause one’s self-esteem to crumble, and one’s self-efficacy to vanish. According to the ABCT (2019), “survivors may no longer feel safe, may lose self-esteem, feel powerless, and lose the ability to trust others or develop intimacy.” To address these issues, treatment has to focus on ways of constructing new behaviors that the sexual assault victim can pursue in order to replace the old negative emotions, thoughts and actions with new, positive emotions, thoughts and actions.

Sometimes the treatment process is more complicated because the trauma the survivor experiences is more deeply rooted. The victim can become withdrawn, isolated, anti-social, and self-destructive. Flashbacks, sounds, smells, environments can all trigger a reaction that takes the victim out of the present and immediately plunges the person back into the time of the assault and causes the victim to experience it all over again in a vivid way. This is the essence of dealing with PTSD, and it can be quite challenging to treat.

However, there are ways to treat trauma stemming from sexual addiction, and CBT can help. CBT focuses on identifying and working towards goals that can improve the life of the survivor. The goals can focus on ways of acting, thinking, feeling and dealing with mental or physical issues stemming from the attack. While there are many options available for treating trauma, the unique quality of CBT is that it does not try to probe the unconscious mind the way other psychotherapists may try: “Behavior Therapists and Cognitive Behavior Therapists usually focus more on the current situation and its solution, rather than the past. They concentrate on a person’s views and beliefs about their life, not on personality traits” (ABCT, 2019). Instead of looking at personality and unconscious psychology, the therapist looks at actions and ideology—things that can be clearly seen and understood. The main goal of CBT is to change the outlook of the person’s life so that more positive inputs can begin to take root and displace naturally the negative inputs that are preventing the person from developing and growing.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET) is another type of treatment that can be used to help survivors of sexual assault trauma. It focuses on helping the person to deal with “unwanted thoughts, disturbing nightmares, feelings of hopelessness, depression, and hypervigilance” by assisting the patient to re-engage with life in a meaningful and…

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…they no longer suffer from PTSD and know how to get a grip on their own sexual assault trauma.

Through public service announcements, the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter, and through celebrity sponsorship, the message of preventing sexual assault trauma can begin to gain traction in the real world. This is important as the main goal of implementation is to develop a foundation in the public. This foundation can then serve as the stage upon which the real work of implementation is done—i.e., work on a case by case basis.

Once the message is gotten out, the people have to begin to make changes in their own lives and this requires support. A network of support needs to be provided to effect the type of social, cultural and political change needed to effect a truly preventive culture. This means organization needs to occur at both the micro and the macro levels, with grassroots organizations coming together to provide messaging and support for people at the local level, and political action committees coming together to provide financial and political support at the national level. Through this micro-macro combination approach, the implementation of prevention strategies through education, messaging, support networks and cultural change can be achieved.


Sexual assault trauma is on the rise in today’s country as the country becomes less and less interested in promoting the concept of self-control and instead promotes the concepts of freedom and self-expression. In order to prevent sexual assault from occurring, society needs to get serious about respect for others and self-control. To treat sexual assault trauma, the most common method is CBT—cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on identifying thinking, feeling, acting and dealing goals that can be implemented in the person’s life to help overcome the negative inputs stemming from the assault suffered in the past. Through PET an alternate treatment method can be provided that focuses on processing the traumatic experience itself, engaging in narrative therapy (the telling of the person’s experience and story to help with the processing),…

Sources Used in Document:


ABCT. (2019). Sexual assault. Retrieved from

Bennett, J. (2018). Combating Sexual Assault With the Military Ethic: Exploring Culture, Military Institutions, and Norms-Based Preventive Policy. Armed Forces & Society, 44(4), 707-730.

Groth, A. N., & Burgess, A. W. (1979). Sexual trauma in the life histories of rapists and child molesters. Victimology, 4(1), 10-16.

Psychology Today. (2018). PET. Retrieved from

Stimson, C. (2013). Sexual Assault in the Military: Understanding the Problem and How to Fix It. Retrieved from

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