Considerations in the provision of adequate psychological care for the sexually assaulted woman

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

In providing a guide for the use of lay counsellors or professional helpers in assisting the sexually assaulted woman, the importance of understanding the social context in which the assault occurs is emphasised as fundamental in aiding the woman to recover with minimal after-effects in a relatively brief time. The subjective experience of the woman is described, attention being paid to the wide range of sexually assaultive experiences which can occur, with varying effects. The two main elements involved are intimidation (or violence) and bodily intrusions with sexual connotations, in varying combinations. Using the crisis intervention model as framework, because of its accessibility to a wide range of helpers, and its relevance to the acute stress reaction following assault, the psychological effects and practical issues which affect the woman and her important social support networks are outlined. The therapeutic intervention is described, paying attention to helper-related issues, the problems of the woman herself and the likely problems for her significant others. The aim is to facilitate the woman's resumption of pre-crisis levels of psychosocial functioning by providing appropriate supportive understanding, anticipatory guidance and practical information, and facilitating the woman's own adaptive strategies, making use of all available resources, to maximise her recovery potential. Situations in which crisis intervention strategies are inadequate are described to enable the helper to make decisions regarding referral of the woman for more skilled and intensive therapeutic intervention; this too, must take cognisance of the social context of sexual assault. Recommendations are made regarding further research, and the development of existing, and of new facilities to aid the sexually assaulted woman and to reduce the incidence and traumatic after-effects of these encounters. Finally, case material is appended to illustrate the themes discussed.

Bibliography: leaf 143-164.