Throughout an individual’s life, certain things occur and leave one with a wound or shock that causes serious implications. These events can cause both emotional and physical damage to the body of an affected individual. Some of the activities that cause such harm include witnessing violence, accidents, a hairline fracture, physical attacks, or loss of a loved one among others (Cohen, Mannarino & Deblinger, 2012). Studies have shown that children have the highest vulnerability to trauma.
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Certain people experience such events in their teenage years, while for others, it happens in adulthood (Place, 2010). Psychologists argue that children who experience trauma at a young age suffer the most serious effects compared to those who encounter distress in their teenage years. Managing trauma in children is very challenging, especially if the causative events go unnoticed or a child fails to talk about them. Children fail to talk about the traumatic events they experience because they have no one to listen to them and the fear of rejection.
Experts argue that parents, teachers, care providers, and any other responsible adults involved in a child’s life have a responsibility to help children who experience trauma (Levine & Kline, 2008). These people should provide support to children by ensuring that they win their trust, which allows them to open up. Studies have shown that children feel comfortable talking to people they trust. Psychologists argue that children feel comfortable talking to people they trust.
Allowing children to talk about traumatic events allows them to get their life back on track. They can accept their situation, mourn, and eventually move on (Place, 2010). One of the traumatic events that children can experience in life is rape.
Rape is one of the most traumatizing events that anyone can experience in their lifetime. The act of forcing someone to have sex against his or her will is very prevalent in society (Levine & Kline, 2008). Rapists are dreaded in every society because they inflict pain on people, especially when they target innocent children. Experts have identified three categories of rape, namely male-to-female, female-to-male, and male-to-male rape (Cohen et al., 2012).
Experts have also developed another category called adult-on-child rape. Rape happens in homes, schools, playing fields, social halls, cars, and a wide range of secluded places. Rape has many effects on children in terms of their ability to accept themselves, fit in the society, trust people, and make friends. Psychologists argue that children who undergo rape in their life experience, both physical and psychological distress (Babbel, 2013).
Rape leads to physical consequences such as bleeding, vaginal inflammation, chronic pelvic pain, urinary tract infections, as well as vaginal and anal infections (Babbel, 2013).
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Consequences such as pregnancy, physical disabilities, as well as contracting Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and sexually transmitted infections can lead to psychological trauma. Rape also causes children to experience psychological effects such as anxiety, eating disorders, neurosis, and a wide range of post-traumatic disorders (Levine & Kline, 2008).
Theory application and literature review
Psychologists argue rape victims suffer from Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS). RTS refers to the disturbance suffered by victims of rape that compromises their objective, expressive, cognitive, and interpersonal demeanor (Coppin, 2000). RTS applies through three major stages, which an individual goes through. These three levels are the acute, the outward adjustment, and the renormalization stages. The acute stage represents the period that follows immediately after a rape ordeal.
It can be a few hours, days, or weeks. At this time, a victim experiences rapid onset and severe courses (Peterson & Biggs, 1997). Rape victims in this stage exhibit three kinds of responses, namely expressive, controlled, and shocking. Some of the most notable challenges that children in this stage experience include low concentration, poor memory, incomplete tasks, and inconsistent decision-making, among others. Victims are usually in a state of violent mental agitation (Peterson & Biggs, 1997).
The outward adjustment stage represents the period when rape victims begin to get their life back together. Research shows that individuals who reach this stage often exhibit signs of regaining their normal lifestyles, self-acceptance, and slight adjustments to coping mechanisms (Coppin, 2000). Research shows that victims use five coping strategies. First, there is minimization where victims act in a manner to show that they are comfortable, and everything is tolerable.
The second strategy involves dramatization, where victims engage in telling the events of their ordeal. This makes the victims feel comfortable and accepted. Third, victims also apply suppression where they decline to talk about their ordeal or be around anyone talking about rape (Peterson & Biggs, 1997).
Fourth, certain victims apply the flight strategy in which they move to a different location away from where the rape happened. They look for places where people do not know much about them. The final coping mechanism applied by rape victims is an explanation in which individuals analyze the events of the rape with friends, family, and psychiatrists (Cohen et al., 2012).
The third level of RTS is the renormalization stage. Research shows that rape victims in this stage begin the process of acknowledging the need to use coping strategies. This stage is important in helping the victims identify various habits that they develop while in denial (McLean, Deblinger, Atkins, Foa & Ralphe, 1988). Psychologists argue that this is the best time for victims to seek the services of a therapist because treatment is more effective when a victim is not in denial.
This stage is also important in helping victims refocus their lives away from the rape incident. They do this by managing feelings such as shame, guilt, and anger. They accept that they were vulnerable and had no responsibility in the misfortune that befell them. Psychologists argue that victims have a role to play in ensuring effective management of trauma. When they reconcile with their inner self and believe others could have experienced the same ordeal (Szalavitz, 2013).
This process is longer in children, especially if a family member, a close friend, classmate, or any other individual that they had trust in victimizes them. Some of the symptoms exhibited by people who suffer from RTS include self-blame, suicidal thoughts, depression, and low self-esteem, among others (Coppin, 2000). The victims also suffer from sociological impacts mainly caused by secondary victimization.
Studies have shown that individuals in all age categories similarly manifest symptoms of RTS. Several years of research on the effects of rape on children have established that RTS classifies as a psychiatric condition (McLean et al., 1988). Psychologists argue that parents, teachers, and other responsible adults should learn various signs that tell when a child is experiencing trauma. Studies have shown that more than three-quarters of children who experience traumatizing events do not talk about them to anyone.
In most cases, these children do not have someone to talk to, thus end up suffering (Geist, 1988). Research carried out to establish the immediate needs of rape victims identified understanding, comfort, access to medical services, and family support as the priority needs. People close to a rape victim should do their best to help by comforting them in understanding their condition. The study also established that children are hard to deal with after experiencing such a traumatic event (McLean et al., 1988).
According to psychologists, effective management of rape-related trauma in children helps to avoid the possibility of the victims developing complications later in life. Research shows that the chances of children suffering from the effects of trauma caused by rape throughout their lives are higher when the violator is someone they trusted (Coppin, 2000). Such situations are hard for children because they spend a big part of their childhood around their violators. This makes it hard for them to avoid suffering the trauma from the ordeal.
Numerous studies on child growth and development have established several ways through which one can identify a traumatized child (Babbel, 2013). Parents should be very observant of their children’s behavior because most of them do not talk about traumatic events out of fear. Psychologists argue that adults should encourage children to confide in them by winning their trust (Babbel, 2013).
Parents should lookout for signs that indicate trauma in children. These signs include confusion, irritability, moodiness, anger, nervousness, social withdrawal, change in eating patterns, and poor academic grades, among others (McLean et al., 1988). According to experts, these behavioral indicators represent signs of a child suffering from RTS.
Psychologists advise that parents should do their best to encourage their children to open up to them. Parents should take immediate action any time they observe one or more of these signs at a particular time. Parents should seek the services of a therapist when they feel that their child is traumatized (McLean et al., 1988). Experts also advise parents to ensure that they build close relations with their children from an early age, as this can help to reduce their vulnerability to dangers such as rape.
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They also argue that children are never too young to know about certain things, especially if they will increase their safety, confidence, and self-esteem (Szalavitz, 2013). Research shows that children who lack confidence and self-belief have trouble dealing with traumatic events such as rape because most of them think that no one will believe them. Others refuse to talk about traumatic events because they fear rejection from their friends and family (Coppin, 2000).
Approaches to trauma prevention and intervention
Protecting children from traumatic events and providing effective intervention strategies play a crucial role in promoting their growth and development. Parents, teachers, care providers, and any other responsible adult involved in a child’s life have a responsibility to ensure that they look out for their welfare at all times (Osofsky, 2007). Experts suggest that these people can start educating children about their safety from an early age.
They argue that children can reduce vulnerability to traumatic events such as rape if the people involved in their lives provide the right information and guidance from an early age (Osofsky, 2007). Children should be aware of signs that show people who intend to harm them, areas that they should avoid going on their own, ways of dealing with strangers, and the quickest places they seek for help in case they feel endangered (Osofsky, 2007).
Schools can also help in preventing children from experiencing trauma by reorienting their curriculums to incorporate important topics such as sexual violence, oppression, gender stereotypes, and any other topics that will educate children about their safety. According to experts, various strategies are applicable to providing intervention for children who have been raped (Osofsky, 2007).
These intervention strategies include creating a hotline crisis service that will be available to victims around the clock, providing the necessary support in the examination, and accompaniment during court processes (Osofsky, 2007). It is important to prepare children well when they go to testify in courts, as they can easily panic if they do not have an idea of the environment they will encounter.
Suggestions for future research
Numerous studies have been conducted on the concept of children and trauma. A wide variety of literature exists on various types of traumas that children can experience. One of the traumatic events that have dominated most of these studies is sexual abuse of children through rape. The number of cases reported every year in the United States regarding adult to child rape has been increasing at a high rate. The available literature has not covered all the areas regarding children who experience rape.
First, I would suggest further research on the effect of a child’s upbringing on their vulnerability to rape. The kind of upbringing a child goes through can influence their perception of safety, self-worth, and relations with strangers. Second, I would suggest further research on the role that society plays in preventing children from experiencing rape-related trauma. The study should also establish how societal perceptions influence the ability of rape victims to effectively, manage the effects of experience such an ordeal.
Children who experience trauma at a young age suffer the most serious effects compared to those who have their first encounter in their teenage years. Parents, teachers, care providers, and any other responsible adults around a child have a huge role to play in helping children experiencing trauma. One of the traumatic events that children can experience in life is rape or sexual abuse. Psychologists argue that children who experience rape suffer from both physical and psychological distress.
Psychologists argue that people who experience rape suffer from Rape Trauma Syndrome. Effective management of rape-related trauma in children helps to avoid the possibility of victims developing complications later in life. Psychologists argue that parents, teachers, and other responsible adults should learn various signs that bespeak trauma in children.
Protecting children from traumatic events and providing effective intervention strategies play a crucial role in promoting their growth and development. Children who lack confidence and self-belief have trouble dealing with traumatic events such as rape because most of them think that no one will believe them. Signs of traumatized children include confusion, irritability, moodiness, anger, nervousness, social withdrawal, change in eating patterns, and poor academic performance.
Babbel, S. (2013). Trauma: Childhood Sexual Abuse. Web.
Cohen, J. A., Mannarino, A. P., & Deblinger, E. (2012). Trauma-Focused CBT for Children and Adolescents: Treatment Applications. New York: Guilford Press.
Coppin, C. B. (2000). Everything you need to Know about Healing from Rape Trauma.San Francisco: The Rosen Publishing Group.
Geist, R. F. (1988). Sexually related trauma. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America, 6(3), 439-466.
Levine, P. A., & Kline, M. (2008). Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parent’s Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience. Los Angels: North Atlantic Books.
McLean, S. V., Deblinger, E., Atkins, M. S., Foa, E. B., & Ralphe, D. L. (1988). Post-Traumatic stress disorder in sexually abused children. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 27(5), 650-654.
Osofsky, J. D. (2007). Young Children and Trauma: Intervention and Treatment. New York: Guilford Press.
Peterson, C., & Biggs, M. (1997). Interviewing children about trauma: Problems with “specific” questions. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10(2), 279-290.
Place, V. (2010). The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality, and Law. New York: Other Press.
Szalavitz, M. (2013). Trauma: Abused Children May get Unique Form of PTSD. Web.