News / Health

Study: Group Therapy Helps Victims of Sexual Violence Heal

A mass rape victim comforts her son in the town of Fizi, Congo, Feb. 20, 2011.
A mass rape victim comforts her son in the town of Fizi, Congo, Feb. 20, 2011.
Jessica Berman
A new study has found that a form of psychological treatment, called group cognitive therapy, helps ease and reverse the emotional symptoms of victims of rape in war-torn countries where highly-trained psychologists are few and far between.  The good news, say researchers, is that community-based counselors can be trained to provide the service with good results.

Since 2000, the United Nations Security Council has passed nine resolutions denouncing rape during times of war as a human rights abuse.

Women, who are victims of rape in war-torn countries, face a series of short and long-term health and psychological problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Judith Bass, a professor of mental health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bass says rape, which has become a global problem, also affects whole communities where sexual abuse victims live.

“This problem of rape and violence against women is not only about the act of violence but it’s also becoming, unfortunately, wider spread as it is being used in the arsenal of warring factions to dehumanize and humiliate populations," said Bass.

Bass says women who are raped often suffer from stigma in their communities, fear of returning to the site of the offense and concern whether they can meet the needs of their families. Sudden sounds or events can trigger memories of the rape.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where civil war has raged for more than more than three decades since the country’s independence from Belgium, Bass and colleagues investigated whether cognitive behavioral group therapy, which has been shown to be effective in wealthier Western countries, could help women overcome their fears and depression.  

The study involved 157 women over the age of 18 who participated in therapy groups and 248 rape victims in villages who were treated one-on-one by sympathetic counselors who actively listened to the women’s fears.

After six months, 42 percent of those in individual counseling who were depressed at the outset of the therapy no longer showed signs of depression.  But in the cognitive behavior groups in which women discussed goals and learned specific skills for overcoming their depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, 70 percent of women were no longer considered depressed.  

Bass says the good news is that rape victims living in villages with few highly-trained psychologists could be successfully treated by counselors with good listening skills who had received comparatively little training.

“They could do it right and they didn’t need to have high levels of education, and the services didn’t need to have clinicians available," she said.

...except to provide training and check in with the therapists from time to time.  Bass says she’s looking forward to seeing how well the strategy for training low-level counselors works with rape victims in other war-torn countries.

An article on cognitive therapy for victims of rape is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid