Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

RCASA Therapy Thursday: Using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy For Symptoms OfRtrauma

In Sexual Assault Awareness on May 31, 2012 at 5:00 am

For trauma victims, thoughts of guilt, fear, and doubt are a struggle each day. We find ourselves participating in self-blame, negative self-talk or self-mutilating behavior. For example, we often believe that if we had acted, dressed, or said something differently, we would not have been victimized. Survivors often seek the help of counselors to overcome and cope with these faulty, ideas. Many different forms of counseling and therapy have been found to help with negative self-talk and false ideals. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the strategies used to help people overcome the negative, faulty thoughts that plague them daily. Counselors that use CBT often seek to discover a person’s faulty beliefs and then challenge them.

A therapist that uses CBT will help a person understand how and why their negative, degrading thoughts are false. They also help clients to change those thoughts to positive or supportive thoughts. Instead of thinking “I was stupid to wear that dress, I was asking for it,” a counselor using CBT will help the survivor realize, “I am free to wear what I choose, it does not mean I want to share my body with others.” Our guilt and self-blame can keep us from enjoying the wonderful things the world has to offer. No one deserves or asks to be assaulted and not everyone is out to hurt us.

Wednesday Outreach – RCASA Is Moving!

In Sexual Assault Awareness on May 30, 2012 at 5:00 am

The last month has certainly been a busy and eventful one for the staff here at the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault, but we are so grateful for the many opportunities to serve and outreach to the members of our community. With the growing number of services that our agency provides and the growing number of clients that we serve, we have found that we need a bit more space to grow. As of the first week of May our offices have relocated to a new office building on Rt. 2, located next to the Rappahannock United Way. Our new physical and mailing address is:

3331 Shannon Airport Circle

Fredericksburg, VA  22408

Our goal is to make this transition is as smooth as possible for our clients and community partners. Staff will continue to be available by phone or by e-mail and as always our hotline (540-371-1666) will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please do not hesitate to call if you have questions, concerns or would just like to talk to someone.

Please keep an eye on our Wednesday Outreach blog for more information regarding the Open House we hope to host once we have settled into our new office space!

RCASA Prevention Tuesday: Treating Sexual Violence as a Public Health Issue

In Education, Prevention on May 29, 2012 at 5:04 am

In prevention, we work to address sexual violence where it begins: in our attitudes towards and beliefs about relationships, gender roles and societal norms. Unfortunately, while prevention services are absolutely critical in impacting change in the prevalence of sexual violence, they are not always seen as necessary or important . In spite of this, there are some really great organizations from all over the world that focus on treating sexual violence  as a widespread epidemic that deserves to be treated not only as a priority, but as an issue of public health and safety. An example of one of these organizations is Together for Girls, a non-profit organization started in 2007. From their website:

Together for Girls works in several countries in Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. They have several different focuses, including conducting national surveys and collecting data on the prevalence and effect of sexual violence on girls, helping to form national action plans, and creating public awareness campaigns.

Spreading awareness about the mental and physical effects that sexual violence causes in order to spur action at a national level is at the forefront of what Together for Girls aims to accomplish. Featured on their website is a list of facts about how sexual violence changes the lives of girls, including increased likelihood of unintended pregnancy, contraction of HIV/AIDS and STIs, depression and substance abuse, and also a decreased likelihood of attending school. They follow up with this statement:

Societies pay a deep price because healthy, educated women are vital to the health and prosperity of countries. One study has shown that a 1 percent increase in girls attending secondary school adds 0.3 percent in economic growth in developing countries.”

National level initiatives like Together for Girls are invaluable and essential to helping to end sexual violence. If you’d like to learn more about the organization, you can visit their website at http://www.togetherforgirls.org/






RCASA’s Prevention Tuesday: The Role of Males in Preventing Sexual Violence Against Females

In Sexual Assault Awareness on May 29, 2012 at 5:03 am

There is one common complaint when working with males in regards to prevention, and that is some level of frustration that lectures make them feel pegged as potential perpetrators.  So many facilitators have restructured their programs to recognize that the vast majority of males do not perpetrate sexual violence and that rather than pontificating “do not rape” we should teach males and females how to recognize when an assault is about to occur and how to intervene.

This way of looking at males, as the defenders against rape rather than the perpetrators of rape, is a new way of looking at an old male responsibility.  A great breakdown of the history of sexual assault can be found in Brownmiller’s “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape” (1975).   Brownmiller gives several examples of how rape does not occur in the animal kingdom, it is a violation that is unique to humans; however, this also exemplifies the fact that the male instinct to protect their females is a trait shared by many species.

We have tried for years to prevent sexual violence by telling males that ‘no means no’ and have seen no drop in number of assaults.  I believe part of this to be because a presentation given to 100 males might contain one guy who is an offender; and when we focus solely on  making males responsible to not rape, the remaining 99 participants leave the talks with a very similar sense of responsibility as they started.  However, a presentation in which we teach participants to help in the prevention of sexual violence by intervening distributes responsibility to bystanders as well.  Therefore, the message is no longer “do not rape,” but also “do not stand idly by.”

A presenter once gave a clear visual of this to me: if less than one percent of males perpetrate against an estimated 30% of females how are they not stopped by the remaining 99% of males and 60% of females; the answer is that the remainder turn their back rather than step in.  More succinctly and famously worded by Edmund Burke: “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

So a message for all the good men out there, do something.

El abuso y la violencia

In Hispanic/Latino on May 28, 2012 at 5:00 am


Cada año, hay vidas de mujeres (y hombres) que son alteradas o destruidas por alguien que abusa de ellas. Las cicatrices emocionales y físicas, así como la destrucción resultante, aparecen claramente en estadísticas sociales y criminales.

Si bien el abuso se denuncia poco, las estadísticas actuales de crímenes al menos comienzan a contar la historia. El Informe Uniforme de Crímenes del FBI indica rutinariamente a la violencia doméstica como la principal causa de lesiones para mujeres de entre 15 y 44 años de edad en Estados Unidos. Estas lesiones superan a las de los accidentes automovilísticos, los ataques callejeros y las violaciones combinadas.

El abuso puede ser manifiesto, flagrante y descarado. Pero puede ser también sutil y artero. Puede hacer explosión o introducirse gradualmente en una relación. Si bien las mujeres son las principales víctimas del abuso, los hombres también pueden serlo.

Uno de los primeros pasos para tratar con el abuso es identificarlo. Esto suele ser difícil porque puede manifestarse de distintas formas. Esta es una breve reseña de los distintos tipos de abuso.

  1. Abuso emocional es el uso de estrategias mentales o juegos psicológicos. Esto podría incluir cosas como ira, agresión, humillación, intimidación, asecho, temor, poder y control. El objetivo es causar daño emocional a la otra persona.
  2. Abuso físico incluye el uso de partes del cuerpo o armas para amenazar, castigar, dominar, contener, controlar o lesionar a otra persona.
  3. Abuso sexual es el uso de acciones sexuales forzosas que pueden dominar, manipular, amenazar, lesionar, corromper o controlar a otra persona.
  4. Abuso social involucra otras formas de abuso para dominar, manipular o controlar las relaciones sociales de otra persona.
  5. Abuso financiero es el uso de dinero o cuestiones relacionadas con lo financiero para dominar, amenazar o controlar. Esto puede hacerse para dañar a otra persona o sacar provecho financiero de esa persona.
  6. Abuso espiritual es el control de los intereses o prácticas religiosas de otra persona. Puede causarse daño espiritual al criticar las convicciones religiosas de una persona o al distorsionarlas con propósitos religiosos.

Si bien el abuso puede asumir diversas formas, suele haber elementos comunes. Por ejemplo, a menudo existe la tendencia de culpar a la víctima del abuso. A una mujer, por ejemplo, tal vez un pastor o un miembro de la iglesia le diga que “se someta” o que “ore más por su matrimonio”. Y, a menudo, las mujeres vuelven a involucrarse en relaciones abusivas, para sorpresa de muchos.

En este artículo intentaremos brindar algunas respuestas y una perspectiva sobre este tema importante. (Quisiera señalar también que ya tenemos artículos en el sitio Web de Probe que tratan con temas como el abuso verbal y el abuso espiritual.)

Tipos de abusadores

Si bien el abuso y la violencia doméstica se encuentran entre los problemas sociales más acuciantes de nuestro tiempo, la mayor parte de la sociedad (incluyendo las iglesias) sigue considerando a esta crisis como un asunto privado. A las mujeres abusadas los pastores y los miembros de la congregación suelen aconsejarles que “oren más” o “intenten ser una mejor esposa”.

El abuso ha sido ignorado no sólo por la iglesia sino a menudo por la profesión médica. En su estudio del abuso, Evan Stark y Ann Flitcraft encontraron que, de un millón de mujeres que solicitaron tratamiento médico por lesiones sufridas de esposos y novios, los médicos identificaron correctamente las lesiones como resultado de golpizas sólo el cuatro por ciento de las veces.{1}

Frecuentemente el abuso infantil , la violencia doméstica y el abuso sexual van de la mano. Los hombres que abusan de su esposa abusan a menudo también de sus hijos. La investigación demuestra que, en hogares donde ocurre la violencia doméstica, los hijos son abusados en una proporción de 1500 por ciento superior al promedio normal.{2}

A menudo este abuso comienza antes que nazca el niño siquiera. Un estudio de 1200 mujeres embarazadas blancas, latinas y africanoamericanas encontró que una de cada seis informó que hubo abuso físico durante el embarazo.{3}

Los investigadores ahora concluyen que hay dos tipos de abusadores. Neil Jacobson y John Gottman lo documentan en su libro When Men Batter Women.{4} Su estudio de más de 200 parejas en relaciones peligrosas ayudó a destruir mitos y arrojó nueva luz sobre las relaciones abusivas.

Ellos describen dos tipos de golpeadores: los “cobras” y los “perros Pit Bull”. Los “cobras” son los más severamente violentos de los dos. Golpean velozmente y ferozmente, manteniendo siempre el control y sintiéndose con derecho a todo lo que desean.

Los “perros Pit Bull” son violentos porque son inseguros. Tienen una mayor probabilidad de perder el control, y dejan que sus emociones se caldeen lentamente hasta que explotan de ira.

Jacobson y Gottman estudiaron intensamente unas 60 de las 200 parejas viendo cintas de video de discusiones no violentas de golpeadores severos con su cónyuge. Para eliminar parte de la subjetividad, monitorearon también los signos vitales (ritmo cardíaco, flujo de sudor) de las parejas.

Encontraron que los “cobras” se asemejan a la serpiente de la que toman su nombre. Permanecen inmóviles y concentrados justo antes de atacar a su víctima. Se vuelven internamente serenos durante el abuso. Mientras que el ritmo cardíaco de los “perros Pit Bull” aumenta durante el abuso, el ritmo cardíaco de los “cobras” llega a disminuir.

Los “perros Pit Bull” son impulsados por una profunda inseguridad y suelen tener una dependencia insalubre de la compañera abusada. Temen perder a su esposa, así que intentan controlarla mediante el abuso físico y emocional. Los “cobras” a menudo han sido abusados ellos mismos físicamente o sexualmente (frecuentemente en la niñez), y tienden a considerar a la violencia como una parte inevitable de la vida.


A menudo las víctimas del abuso sienten que merecen el abuso que reciben. Han sido convencidas (por su pareja o tal vez por la sociedad en general) de que el abuso es culpa de ellas. No lo es. Para reforzar esta afirmación, estas son ocho cosas que nadie merece:{5}

  1. Nadie merece ser empujado, abofeteado, magullado ni pateado. No hay ninguna excusa que justifique este tipo de acciones, sean drogas, alcohol, problemas financieros o problemas familiares.
  2. Nadie merece ser abusado verbalmente, fisicamente o sexualmente. Nadie debe ser insultado o tratado a los gritos sin ninguna razón aparente.
  3. Nadie merece que le dañen sus posesiones (arrojando platos, desgarrando ropa) o que le destruyan regalos. Estas cosas no se vuelven automáticamente “de él” simplemente porque pagó por ellas de una cuenta corriente conjunta.
  4. Nadie merece que interfieran con su posibilidad de ir de un lado a otro. Usted no necesita que le digan cuándo puede y cuándo no puede salir de la casa, ir de compras o ir a la escuela.
  5. Nadie merece ser seguido, acosado o espiado. Como adulto, usted tiene derecho a ir donde usted quiera, y pasar el tiempo de la forma que usted escoja.
  6. Nadie merece ser ridiculizado, denigrado, menospreciado, ni que se burlen de ella. Esto se aplica tanto en el hogar como en público.
  7. Nadie merece ser privado emocionalmente. Todos tienen necesidades emocionales: de amar, de ser amado, de cuidar y ser cuidado, de necesitar de otros y de ser necesitado por otros. Esto involucra más que una sola persona que exige su tiempo y atención.
  8. Nadie merece ser aislado. Usted merece tener una comunidad de personas alrededor suyo además de sólo un cónyuge que domina su vida.

Toda persona tiene derechos que deben ser afirmados para impedir que tenga lugar el abuso. Esta es una breve lista de esos derechos:

  1. Usted tiene derecho a ser tratado con respeto. Todas las personas son creadas a la imagen de Dios (Génesis 2:26, 27) y tienen valor y dignidad. Usted merece respeto independientemente de su condición económica, raza, religión o sexo.
  2. Usted tiene derecho a ser escuchado. Usted tiene ideas y opiniones, y debe tener la libertad de expresarlas.
  3. Usted tiene derecho a un sistema de ayuda. Usted no debería tener que depender de una persona en su vida para que satisfaga todas sus necesidades emocionales y que lo separa del resto de la sociedad.
  4. Usted tiene derecho a ir de un lado a otro libremente. Usted debe poder tomar decisiones con relación a lo que hace con su tiempo libre.
  5. Usted tiene derecho a tener privacidad y espacio propios. Usted no renuncia a esos derechos cuando se casa o cuando comienza a tener hijos.
  6. Usted tiene derecho a mantener una identidad separada.

Cada uno de estos derechos es importante para establecer límites en una relación. Estos son los componentes clave para impedir el abuso.

Mitos del abuso

Veamos ahora algunos de los mitos acerca del abuso.{6}

Un mito es que las víctimas del abuso vienen de familias de menores ingresos. En realidad, las víctimas de la violencia doméstica vienen de todas las condiciones sociales. La raza, la religión, el trasfondo socioeconómico no son predictores del abuso. Las víctimas del abuso pueden ser personas de buena o mala educación, profesionales o trabajadores comunes.

Un segundo mito es que las víctimas permanecen en relaciones abusivas porque les gusta ser abusadas. Esto no es cierto sencillamente. Muchas han sido condicionadas para aceptar las golpizas porque son culpadas por sus abusadores, pero no les gusta ser golpeadas. Muchas víctimas en realidad “aceptan el abuso como habitual en las relaciones”.{7}

Entonces, ¿por qué no se van las víctimas? La respuesta a esto suele ser bastante compleja. Muchas mujeres creen que no pueden irse porque “él no puede vivir sin mí”. Temen que tendrá una crisis nerviosa, se suicidará o perderá su trabajo.

Tal vez crea que los hijos necesitan un padre, racionalizando que un padre abusador es mejor que no tener ningún padre. Y ella tal vez piense que no podrá mantenerse por su cuenta en el mercado laboral.

Muchas mujeres temen ser muertas si dejan una relación abusiva. Y ese temor puede estar justificado. Los estudios demuestran que las mujeres golpeadas tienen una mayor probabilidad de ser muertas después de dejar una relación abusiva.{8}

Las víctimas del abuso también se autoconvencen de que las cosas van a mejorar. “La esperanza nunca muere”, y siempre hay esperanza de que, con los cambios adecuados y el trabajo duro, el abuso desaparecerá. Lamentablemente, no lo hace.

Un tercer mito es que la violencia ocurre mayormente entre extraños. En contra de la opinión popular, el mayor riesgo de ataque de una mujer viene de un compañero íntimo. Las estadísticas del Departamento de Justicia indican que las mujeres son atacadas siete veces más frecuentemente por ofensores con quienes tienen una relación íntima que las víctimas masculinas de la violencia.{9}

Un cuarto mito es que el abuso no es un problema importante. La violencia doméstica y/o sexual es uno de los principales problemas de salud hoy. Como hemos mencionado, afecta a cada uno de los segmentos socioeconómicos de la sociedad. “Los funcionarios federales estiman que la violencia doméstica y/o sexual cuesta a las empresas estadounidenses 4.000 millones de dólares al año en menor productividad, rotación de personal, ausentismo y el uso excesivo de beneficios médicos”.{11}

Los consejeros necesitan ayudar a las víctimas del abuso a fijar límites en su vida. Las mujeres golpeadas y/o abusadas sexualmente suelen encontrar que les cuesta decidir cosas porque otro ha estado tomando decisiones por ellas. Muchas mujeres que viven en hogares violentos fueron de la casa de su padre directamente a la casa del abusador. Nunca han tenido demasiada experiencia en hacer sus propias elecciones personales.

Si usted quiere ayudar a una víctima del abuso, debería alentarla a tomar sus propias decisiones. Resista la tentación de rescatarla y asumir el control de su vida. Ella necesita sentir que está facultada para actuar y no sentirse inútil. Al mismo tiempo, usted puede brindar sugerencias sobre cómo encontrar un consejero familiar o una agencia que se ocupa de la violencia doméstica.

Tercero, si usted es un consejero o simplemente un amigo compasivo, puede brindar consejos y consolación. Ella necesita oír de usted que no merece ser abusada. Reconozca la seriedad de la situación, y no deje que se autoconvenza de que el abuso desaparecerá.

Cuarto, esté preparado para una intervención en caso de crisis. Puede ser necesaria una rápida acción para protegerla a ella y a sus hijos. Pídale que describa las circunstancias de las últimas dos o tres golpizas. ¿Qué ocurrió antes del ataque (droga, alcohol, discusión)? ¿En qué estado se encuentra la relación de ella en este momento?

Un consejero que recibe una llamada de crisis sólo tiene unos pocos instantes para discernir el alcance de la amenaza, y deben tomarse acciones adecuadas. ¿Puede llegar ella a un lugar seguro inmediatamente? ¿Tiene usted un lugar para que ella vaya, de ser necesario?

A veces la crisis llega a su oficina o a su hogar. Un consejero o amigo compasivo tal vez necesite buscar atención médica y un lugar seguro lejos del abusador.

Si la pareja está separada, ella podría ser asechada por su abusador. Ella necesita saber quién puede protegerla y cómo ponerse en contacto con servicios legales.

Si usted o alguien que usted conoce ha sido victima de violencia sexual o abuso, comuniquese con nuestra linea de ayuda: (540) 371-1666.  Existen recursos disponibles para victimas y sus familias. Toda informacion es confidencial.


RCASA Volunteer Corner

In Volunteer on May 27, 2012 at 6:01 am

Sexual violence is any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone’s will. It encompasses a range of offenses, including a completed non-consensual sex act (rape), an attempted non-consensual sex act, abusive sexual contact (unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment). All of these involve victims who do not consent, or who are unable to consent or refuse to allow the act.

If you are, or know someone who needs help, please call

RCASA’s FREE CONFIDENTIAL 24 hour, 7 day a week hotline. 

We are here for you, no matter your sex, age, sexual orientation, or gender identification.

RCASA Advocacy Blog: Forms of Sexual Assault

In Advocacy, Systems Advocacy on May 26, 2012 at 5:00 am

Sexual assault is defined by law as sexualized contact (sometimes referred to as carnal knowledge) with another person without consent and by force (compulsion). Victims (both men and women) of sexual assault can be compelled or forced to participate through fear, physical force, deception, other forms of coercion, or the use of intoxicants such as alcohol and drugs. Some forms of sexual assault do not require the use of force but are still considered criminal. Sexual assault has taken place if sexual contact has happened that has not been consented to in a conscious and voluntary way.

Sexual assault can take many forms.

Forms of sexual assault with force

       Sexual assault can include any adult sexual activity.

  • Contact or penetration of the vagina with the penis (intercourse, rape)
  • Anal contact or penetration (sodomy)
  • Oral contact of the male on the genitalia of the female (cunnilingus)
  • Oral contact of the female on the genitalia of the male (fellatio)
  • Hand to genitalia contact (masturbation, fondling, or penetration)


       Contact between any body parts and the private parts of another can be construed as lewd and lascivious conduct or sexual battery (a legal term for any other ill-defined behavior that is intended to arouse sexual pleasure for the assailant). Lewd and lascivious conduct and sexual battery are very broad categories of sexual assault used by law enforcement when exactly what happened is not clear.


       Forced nudity, photography, and video of people in sexual poses against their wishes are also forms of sexual assault.

Forms of sexual assault without force: In other sexualized behaviors, including groping in crowds, secret photographing, or peeping, force or fear of harm may be absent due to the nature of the activity. These behaviors are still regarded as sexual assault. When the acts are ill defined, the lack of consent and the intent to arouse sexual gratification will be used as a test to determine if the behavior is a sexual assault.

Date rape: Date rape is a sexual assault that occurs when you already have a relationship with the person who assaulted you and you have agreed to be with that person in some form or another (such as to be on a date). A date, however, does not imply any consent for sexual contact, and a sexual assault that takes place during a date is still a sexual assault and will be treated as such by law enforcement.

Spousal rape: In spousal rape, a husband can be accused of sexual assault on his own wife. Although uncommon, a dysfunctional marital relationship can lead to both physical assault and sexual assault against a spouse. This is a form of domestic violence. These assaults are handled the same as any other sexual assault allegation by law enforcement.

Statutory rape: Statutory rape is sex with a minor. A minor is a person younger than 18 years. Quite a bit of confusion exists about this law. Some states allow intercourse with minors who are emancipated (freed of control from their parents), and other states allow minors to marry. Many minors engage in sexual intercourse with other minors and are not prosecuted. Adult engagement in sex with minors is generally not tolerated, and adults should not engage in intercourse with younger people unless the adult is sure the youth is emancipated or older than 18 years. This crime is legally known as a strict liability crime. This means that if a person has sex with a minor, no excuse is acceptable to a court, including being duped, mistaken, or ignorant of the law. If a person has sex with a minor, he or she can be charged with statutory rape, to which no defense exists. To avoid this crime, extra caution is needed when engaging in sex with someone at or near the age of 18 years.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault and need(s) help, please call us on our hotline: (540) 371-1666. There are many resources available for victims and their families. All information is kept confidential.

RCASA Friday Facts: Mental Health Reactions to Sexual Assault

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on May 25, 2012 at 5:00 am
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and RCASA is exploring the link between sexual assault and mental health issues.

What are some early reactions to sexual assault?

In the first few days and weeks following the assault, it is very normal for a woman to experience intense and sometimes unpredictable emotions. She may have repeated strong memories of the event that are difficult to ignore, and nightmares are not uncommon. Women also report having difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and they may feel jumpy or on edge. While these initial reactions are normal and expected, some women may experience severe, highly disruptive symptoms that make it incredibly difficult to function in the first month following the assault. When these problems disrupt the woman’s daily life, and prevent her from seeking assistance or telling friends and family members, the woman may have Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). Symptoms of ASD include:

  • Feeling numb and detached, like being in a daze or a dream, or feeling that the world is strange and unreal
  • Difficulty remembering important parts of the assault
  • Reliving the assault through repeated thoughts, memories, or nightmares
  • Avoidance of things (places, thoughts, feelings) that remind the woman of the assault
  • Anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping, concentrating, etc.)

What are some other reactions that women have following a sexual assault?

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Depression is a common reaction following sexual assault. Symptoms of MDD can include a depressed mood, an inability to enjoy things, difficulty sleeping, changes in patterns of sleeping and eating, problems in concentration and decision-making, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and decreased self-esteem. Research suggests that almost 1/3 of all rape victims have at least one period of MDD during their lives. And for many of these women, the depression can last for a long period of time. Thoughts about suicide are also common. Studies estimate that 1/3 of women who are raped contemplate suicide, and 17% of rape victims actually attempt suicide.


Many victims of sexual assault report struggling with anger after the assault. Although this is a natural reaction to such a violating event, there is some research that suggests that prolonged, intense anger can interfere with the recovery process and further disrupt a woman’s life.

Shame and guilt

These feelings are common reactions to sexual assault. Some women blame themselves for what has happened or feel shameful about being an assault victim. This reaction can be even stronger among women who are assaulted by someone that they know, or who do not receive support from their friends, family, or authorities, following the incident. Shame and guilt can also get in the way of a woman’s recovery by preventing her from telling others about what happened and getting assistance.

Social problems

Social problems can sometimes arise following a sexual assault. A woman can experience problems in her marital relationship or in her friendships. Sometimes an assault survivor will be too anxious or depressed to want to participate in social activities. Many women report difficulty trusting others after the assault, so it can be difficult to develop new relationships. Performance at work and school can also be affected.

Sexual problems

Sexual problems can be among the most long-standing problems experienced by women who are the victims of sexual assault. Women can be afraid of and try to avoid any sexual activity; they may experience an overall decrease in sexual interest and desire.

Alcohol and drug use

Substance abuse can sometimes become problematic for women who are the victims of assault. A large-scale study found that compared to non-victims, rape survivors were 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana, 6 times more likely to use cocaine, and 10 times more likely to use other major drugs. Often, women will report that they use these substances to control other symptoms related to their assault.


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) involves a pattern of symptoms that some individuals develop after experiencing a traumatic event such as sexual assault. Symptoms of PTSD include repeated thoughts of the assault; memories and nightmares; avoidance of thoughts, feelings, and situations related to the assault; and increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping and concentrating, jumpiness, irritability). One study that examined PTSD symptoms among women who were raped found that 94% of women experienced these symptoms during the two weeks immediately following the rape. Nine months later, about 30% of the women were still reporting this pattern of symptoms. The National Women’s Study reported that almost 1/3 of all rape victims develop PTSD sometime during their lives and 11% of rape victims currently suffer from the disorder.

RCASA Therapy Thursday: The Brain, Trauma, and Art Therapy

In Sexual Assault Awareness on May 24, 2012 at 5:00 am

The Brain, Trauma, and Art Therapy

   During a traumatic event your brains main function is to get you through the event. In order to do this your brain sends out signals of trauma. That is, it helps us by activating biological reactions involved in the fight/flight response. During this response your brain releases adrenalin (your heart races, breathing quickens, and you are ready to move). The amygdala, which is responsible for memories in response to emotional events and emotional regulation, goes into over drive. So what does that mean? In a traumatic event there is an overload of stress hormones that may get short-circuited and may actually increase in size. Your brain is wired to calm you down and help you cope after a fear situation but that doesn’t always happen. Your medial prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for regulating emotion and fear responses, may not regulate itself or function properly after trauma. Think of it like a power surge in you house- sometimes everything goes back to normal but sometimes it flips a breaker. This short circuiting of the brain can account for always feeling frightened, nightmares, not finding words to describe the event (prefrontal lobe, which is responsible for language, is effected), problems with short term memory (the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and experience assimilation, can actually shrink in volume), or having difficulty regulating emotions.

   What does that mean for you? The good news is: you can rewire your brain. It is not always easy but it can be done. I had a neuropsychologist explain it to me like this: it’s like rolling a ball down a hill. The first time doesn’t make a visible difference but, the more times you do it, the deeper the rut. By engaging yourself in therapy, narrivate exploration, creative arts therapy, etc. you can help rewire your brain.

   To quote Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT (2010) from her website:
“As we continue to learn more about complex, chronic trauma, just how should trauma specialists address DTD and make appropriate interventions with these children and adolescents? Here are some simple recommendations, based on my work with children from violent homes, abused children, and youth who witness homicides:1. Establish a sense of safety. This includes helping children establish both an internal sense of safety and identification and support for safety within their homes, neighborhoods, and communities.2. Regulate affect. Help children understand that what has happened is “not their fault,” and assist them in learning methods to regulate and moderate arousal [limbic system] with the long-term goal of restoring emotional equilibrium.3. Reestablish attachment. Chronic, complex trauma disrupts basic trust because it is often caused by dysfunctional or abusive interpersonal relationships; our goal as helping professionals is to help children reestablish attachment with positive adult role models and to learn how to empathize and productively interact with peers.4. Enhance the brain’s executive functions. Serious and repetitive trauma impacts cognition, disrupting cortical functioning; our goal is to help children effectively engage attention, comprehension, and problem-solving skills to allow for the experiences of mastery, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.5. Reframe and integrate traumatic experiences. Chronic, complex developmental trauma cannot be erased from memory; however, with our help children can learn to how to manage their reactions, enhance adaptive coping skills, and cultivate present-oriented responses to current stresses. Our ultimate goal in intervention is to help these youth transform, incorporate, resolve, repair, and construct meaningful lives, post-treatment.”

   Our bodies and brains are effected deeply by trauma. Just know that you are not alone and there are tools out there to help regulate your responses to traumatic events.





Join the RCASA team, positions available

In Employment on May 23, 2012 at 8:56 am


Join Our Team      
We are seeking individuals dedicated to human rights and who is willing to work tirelessly to grow our organization and inspire the next leaders of the movement to end sexual violence.  The hours will be long, the rewards will be tremendous – but so will the challenges. Your work ethic should be above and beyond, and the words “figure it out” should sound like an exciting challenge to you.  You’ll need to work well both independently and collaboratively, across a large and diverse area and you’ll need to be ok with doing everything from cleaning the office to giving a presentation.  All personnel collect data, meet daily, weekly, and monthly deadlines, and are able to navigate both small and large projects.  Your success in this agency will be integral to the success of the organization, and you will work closely with the team to serve our community with excellence and integrity. 

Download Application  and email to  jobs@rcasa.org  

Current positions open:

Case Management/Counseling Coordinator –  

Full-time or two part-time postions.  Preferences include: Masters degree, licensed or licensed-eligible in the state of Virginia, art therapy degree, bi-lingual Spanish/English.  Experience working in rape crisis centers or with survivors of sexually violent crimes and abuse.  This position will require flexibility to organize SART’s, manage interns, and provide direct victim services.

Crisis Responders/Advocates (Intervention Services) – day, weekend and overnight shifts are available.  Bi-lingual Spanish/English needed.  This position pays on a split rate, one for being on-call and one for responding to a hotline call or hospital accompaniment.  Bachelors degree and 2 years experience on a rape crisis hotline preferred. Associates degree or Bachelors degree in process required.

RCASA is an equal opportunity employer.  All personnel employed or volunteering for the agency are required to have reliable transportation available during your work schedule, reliable cellular service, be willing to work variable hours and stay on projects until completed.  All applicants must complete pre-employment back-ground checks and drug testing.  RCASA serves a diverse community and hires a diverse workforce.  RCASA does not discriminate due to age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender expression or any protected status.


Volunteer Positions

to apply for a volunteer position, please download volunteer application.  Send in application.  You may attach resume if desired.  Email to  volunteer This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @rcasa.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

Level III – Crisis Responder/Victim Advocates to provide support to the hotline and medical accompaniment program.   Bi-lingual in Spanish/English needed, Bachelor’s degree and experience in a rape crises center preferred.  Ability to work variable shifts: day, evening, weekends and holidays required.  Volunteers must complete an initial 40 hours training, participate in quarterly update trainings annually, and attend monthly volunteer meetings.  

Level II – Information and Resources Volunteers to provide support at community health fairs and events, general presentations, and fundraising events.  Volunteer experience in community relations preferred.  Volunteers must complete an initial 25 hours training, participate in quarterly update trainings annually and monthly volunteer meetings.

Level I – Office Volunteers to provide general help with mailings, presentation and outreach preparation, phone support, research, blogging, and other office duties.  Experience in office support services preferred.  Volunteers must complete 10 hours of initial training, participate in quarterly update trainings annually, and attend monthly volunteer meetings. 

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