Psychologically, what makes rape traumatic

Particular traumatic situations and typical consequences

Here we go into the different traumatic events that people may encounter. What are the typical consequences? What can you do about it? There may be information about the traumatic experience that affected you personally. If it doesn't concern you, just skip the point in question. Please concentrate only on information that is directly relevant to yourself or to your acquaintances. Read the text across. If you are affected yourself, you do not need to burden yourself with the suffering of other people, at least not as long as your own emotional confusion and upheaval persists.

Intentionally caused damage

Injuries that are deliberately caused by people are probably the strongest shocks to our understanding of ourselves and the world. In the extreme, this includes torture, which, despite being ostracized by the United Nations, is still used in 91 countries today. That's 50% of the countries in the world. But violent crimes for personal or "political" motives also shake the image we have of our fellow human beings. If we are affected by it, we are usually stunned by such an event.

Many victims try to "understand" the perpetrator and hope that he or she will gain insight into the consequences of his / her act. Less visible than torture, but also very effective, bullying perpetrators can cause confusion and harm in their victims. We understand bullying primarily as "psychological terror in the workplace", but the persecution of racial and other minorities also belongs here. The term comes from mob, which means something like mob. Bullying then means bullying someone. Some employees in the world of work seem to have specialized in spinning intrigues and "bullying" colleagues or even superiors and subordinates. However such behavior, deliberately and systematically causing harm to others, can be explained in the case of the individual perpetrator, What is important is the reaction of the human community. If a company, a state or a supranational organization is dominated by a majority of mentally healthy people, then these institutions effectively turn against the terror that perpetrators or groups of perpetrators perpetrate against individual persons or defenseless minorities In a healthy state, the rights and feelings of the population are on the side of the victims.

If the majority of social institutions are determined by mentally ill people, the situation is reversed. Dictators, mass murderers and torturers then have the right on their side. Their terror is portrayed not only as necessary, but as a benefit, even for the victims. And the victims are accused of being the real culprits. As long as such conditions exist or are justified afterwards, trauma is normal. Then it can become almost unbearably difficult for individual sufferers to come to terms with their personal trauma. The emotional wounds then cannot heal, the violence is passed on, often across generations.

Accidents and natural disasters

Disasters, accidents and illnesses are not based on evil human intent. It is a stroke of fate, the effect of "force majeure" or "human error". Here we are not so much cast into doubt about the trustworthiness of our fellow human beings. On the other hand, the belief in the safety of our environment and the controllability of technology is shaken. Nevertheless, the individual victims often have to bear just as much of their suffering personally as the victims of violence and deliberately caused damage.

What are the effects of a certain traumatic experience and what are the typical consequences? This question opens up a "wide field", and research in Cologne, other places in Germany and worldwide is only just beginning to investigate the connection between special traumatic situations and their typical short- and long-term consequences. We give an overview below about some of the most common traumatic experiences and their consequences.

Negative intimacy

Here, in a crime, the victim's intimate boundaries were crossed. Examples are rape, child sexual abuse, sexual torture, sexual abuse in psychotherapy and psychiatry. This creates a feeling of disgust and pollution in the victims. Disgust is often accompanied by an urge to vomit.

Loss and grief

When close loved ones or loved ones are lost to death, violent, prolonged grief can be expected. When death occurs suddenly, there is paralysis and bewilderment at the beginning. Now follows a phase of denial, we do not want to admit the loss. Or we cling to every hope, however unlikely, that the bad news or fear may not be confirmed after all. Then, when the reality of loss intrudes, we are gripped by a wave of pain. Many are extremely desperate, some also experience anger at the dead because they have left us. Such more "irrational" feelings are difficult for some of those affected to admit personally. They contradict our reason, but are completely normal, since our feelings are known not to follow logic. Only good things about the dead! This sentence does not always correspond to our feelings either. Because with the anger about our own "abandonment", accusations against the dead can also arise in us because of everything that they may have missed in life.

Not wanting to believe and the pain of grief alternate like waves that come and go. Often only the sight of the dead gives the final certainty that he has really passed away. If the corpse is not disfigured, looking directly at it is generally helpful in order to be able to say goodbye and to really understand this farewell, on a more physical level, as it were. Grief can last a long time and we should allow adequate time for ourselves and others. The "widow's year", which is still common in some, mostly rural regions, gives an idea of ​​how long it can take until we have really put up with the death of a loved one who is close to us.

Loss and "robbery"

Mourning can be further complicated when we experience the death of people close to us, as if a piece of ourselves had been lost, as in the soldier's song "I had a comrade". There it says:
“A bullet came flying, was it for me or was it for you? She tore it away, it lies at my feet as if it were a piece of me. "

The loss of the other is combined with a "loss of self". A part of us has died with us. This part can come back to life. We have to bring our sense of self and self-confidence back, often with great effort, from the "realm of the dead". Then the energy flows back to us and we can feel valuable and alive again. The turning point, the new paths after the trauma, come when the separation from the loved one takes place inwardly. Then we find our own strength again and can mourn what we have irrevocably lost.

Victimization (from victim = victim)

Here the victim feels like a loser, offended, humiliated and belittled. The public often only speaks of the perpetrator, sometimes like a hero. The victim is seen as a loser. Here it is important to realize that victims are not losers. The perpetrator, not the victim, violated his human dignity.

Fear and excitement

This trauma sequence occurs very frequently and has already been discussed in connection with the psychotraumatic stress syndrome. Listen to the fears your body is expressing. Try the vigilance exercise (Chapter 2.4.2). Many of those affected can calm down better afterwards. Then the exercises for distancing and calming are often easier to do.

Near death

The experience of nearness to death brings the end of life immediately before our eyes. Even when the danger to life is over, there is often the fear, sometimes even the certainty, that life could end immediately. It is as if the "ozone layer" of our protective illusions has been lost. Take this "irrational" fear seriously. Go through the likelihood that there is still life threatening. Observe the individual situations that seem particularly threatening to you. Some people find it helpful to extend the vigilance exercise (Chapter 2.4.2) to life-threatening situations. Often times, when the fears and frightening situations have been listed and examined, reassurance and recovery arise. One creative solution that some victims or patients with a life-threatening illness come up with is to reassess time. The remaining minutes, hours and days can be felt all the more valuable precisely because they are "numbered".

Bullying - psychological terror in the workplace

Research on this topic has not revealed a "typical personality" that incites others to bullying. Rather, everyone can be affected. One because he attracts the envy of colleagues or "stands in someone's way," the other because of some negative ones or even positive personal characteristics. Bullying is harmful to health if the hostile attacks are continued for more than six months. This can lead to sleep disorders, depression, irritability and outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, headache, back pain and neck pain. It is not uncommon for incapacity for work and early retirement to be the end of the bullying attacks. Bullying causes economic damage in the billions every year.

While the problem has been taken seriously in Sweden for a long time and researched at an early stage, an appropriate awareness of the problem is only gradually emerging in Germany. If one compares the typical consequences between different European countries, the victims in Germany suffer most from depression, possibly because they feel particularly left alone. Management, the staff council or special representatives should intervene to regulate, protect the victim and bring the perpetrator (s) under control. It often helps those affected if they can share their experiences in a self-help group. Health and quality circles can be set up in companies or larger institutions. This is a group of employees from different levels of the company who systematically deals with conflicts and takes measures to improve the working atmosphere. Separating the work areas of perpetrators and victims is an important measure and helps the victims to return to unencumbered working relationships. Managers can also be victims of bullying. A change of consciousness is necessary in the population. All too often one still finds the attitude of not wanting to interfere as much as possible in "private disputes". Often the victim is declared to be "aggressive" if he defends himself against the attacks. Bullying situations are usually a quandary for the victims. If you defend yourself, this will be interpreted against you, if you don't defend yourself, the terror will continue. Therefore, third parties should be involved in the conflict in good time or they should get involved on their part.

Political persecution and violence

Being persecuted because of a political or ideological conviction, ethnic affiliation or even because of skin color and "race" characteristics is one of the most frequent causes of severe and severe psychological trauma worldwide. This increases to the extreme when torture is added, as in around 50 % of countries in the world today. The civilized and democratic countries have now abolished and ostracized torture. They offer asylum to the politically persecuted. This requires a special framework in the event of psychological trauma. If a psychotraumatologically trained expert confirms the trauma and its consequences, the affected person should be granted a longer right of residence in the country of asylum. Mental injuries cannot heal under the threat of being "deported" back to a country where renewed persecution and possibly even torture await.

The trauma of the helpers

Police officers, emergency services, soldiers on humanitarian missions, doctors and nurses in an intensive care unit are at increased risk of fatigue resulting from stress and trauma. Over time, a so-called "burn-out syndrome" can develop, literally translated as "being burned out" as a result of work-related stress. Some take the "escape to the front" and report to ever tougher missions. Others dull emotions or help with medication or alcohol to get rid of the stressful memories. The high divorce rate of police officers in psychologically stressful areas is also known A crisis in the partnership arises not only from the time burden, but also from the difficulty of having to deal with the bad experiences after work. In this sense, the partner takes part in the missions and carries the emotional burden the classic question is: "Are you married to your job or to me?" The commissioner feels worn out between the demands of his partner and the job. Conflicts with superiors or with colleagues often also arise. If we have to cope with tasks at work that cannot be performed at all, the professional tensions usually overshadow private life.

The answer is: don't expect impossible achievements from yourself. Learn to live with imperfection. The patient dies in the rescue operation or in the intensive care unit; Help in areas of tension is only partially possible; the perpetrator triumphs. Such failures are often harder to take than the toughest of operations. Just like disaster victims, trauma workers suffer from feelings of guilt. Learn to live with imperfection. Here, too, the changed experience of time is the basis for many reproaches that we direct towards ourselves (compare chapter 1.1.1 in the self-help book New Paths Out of Trauma. Include your partner in reading the information leaflet. Forget not to limit the time you can talk to together about stressful events. Then the conversation can have a relieving and clarifying effect. The traditional agreement of never talking about work problems at home does not work. If we cannot talk about them, stressful experiences strike This affects our mood all the more, and this also affects our partners.