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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More