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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid