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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs