Friday, September 25, 2009

Link Between Sexual Abuse And Suicidal Behaviors

From Smart brief comes this summary:

A survey of more than 8,500 people in Britain found a strong link between sexual abuse and suicide attempts and suicidal intent, especially among women. Researchers said if sexual abuse were eliminated, the lifetime rate of suicide attempts would drop by 28% in women and 7% in men.
I wish this were surprising but it doesn't surprise me at all. I will go further than the survey and say that I believe there is a stronger link when sexual abuse is followed by victim blaming, denial and other related failures which negatively impact survivors. The reason I believe this is that post-traumatic stress disorder has been found to be made worse when rape victims lack social support.

Victim blaming and shaming work to undermine the social support of survivors. Too much of what I've heard and read from people who claim to be decent human beings blatantly sides with rapists while openly disdaining most victims of rape. "She might as well have been wearing a sign that says, 'Rape me,'" is only one of many comments which harm survivors while aiding certain rapists' feeling of self-righteousness.

In a different study researchers found that young adults with PSTD may be more likely to attempt suicide.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—but not exposure to traumatic events without the development of PTSD—may be associated with subsequent attempted suicide in young adults, according to a report in the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Approximately 421,200 to 842,400 Americans age 15 to 24 attempt suicide every year, according to background information in the article. [...]

Of the participants interviewed, 1,273 (81 percent) had been exposed to a traumatic event and 100 (6 percent, or 8 percent of those exposed to trauma) developed PTSD. Suicide had been attempted by 10 percent of those with PTSD, compared with 2 percent of those who were exposed to trauma but did not develop PTSD and 5 percent of those who had never been exposed to traumatic events.
This study didn't limit itself to a specific type of trauma and for good reason. The findings are important and highlight that victims of sexual abuse are not simply destined to be suicidal.

In contrast, Rutgers law professor, Vera Bergelson, wants to make victim blaming an explicit part of our criminal justice system in certain cases (including date rape and domestic violence) and if she succeeds the outcome of her effort will likely contribute to more victims having PTSD and suicidal thoughts and possibly contribute to more survivors actually committing suicide.

Her justification for the proposed changes is "fairness" but it is a distorted sense of fairness. This type of fairness is what leads non-stranger rapists to declare they can't be real rapists because they would never violently attack random strangers. Their victims all brought the assault upon themselves in some way.

This distortion which occurs frequently in the application of sex crime laws contribute to survivors feeling crazy. That in turn can put survivors at increased physical and psychological risk.

Our systems need to move forward to protect the rights and safety and even the lives of those who have been crime victims.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:40 AM   1 comments links to this post


At September 25, 2009 5:01 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Prof. Vera Bergelson's views accord with neo-liberal theories wherein individuals are all supposedly knowledgeable in respect of reducing 'hazard/risk' and themselves alone responsible for managing their own personal safety. Therefore, women are supposed to be always aware of potential male rapists even when the male rapist is a woman's male family member, work colleague, male sexual partner, boyfriend or ex boyfriend.

Women's inequality compared with men's is deemed to be irrelevant because women as a group have supposedly gained the same social and economic benefits and privileges. Yet these views deliberately ignore how our patriarchal society operates and how male-centered social pressures are exerted on women and how male-defined culture also exerts control over women.

The ones who would benefit are the male perpetrators because I have no doubt men who are charged with physically assaulting a male would not be able to claim 'but the complainant provoked me because of the clothes he was wearing, or he was not sufficiently deferential to me.'

Victim-blaming would instead remain focused on women's behaviour and actions but with the added benefit of being perceived as 'just and fair!'

One could easily claim using Prof. Bergelson's theories that a non-white individual provoked the white person to racially insult her because the non-white individual did not behave according to racist ideology. Would this be perceived as acceptable? I doubt it but then justifying women-blaming is another diversionary tactic because on no account must men be held accountable for their sexual and other acts of violence against women.


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