Is There Any Hope for People Like Me?
Q. I have PTSD for being raped and sexually assaulted
while in the Navy. The VA has told me that I am unemployable, and
that I'll never be a "normal" person.
Is there any hope for someone who has had PTSD for
as long as I have 23 years to recover? Is there hope for people like
A. The answer is emphatically YES.
This is based upon one of many wrong ideas about rape
and sexual assault. Donít get me wrong. Rape and sexual assault are
terrible things. The people who perpetrate these acts deserve serious
punishment. The experience of being raped and assaulted is atrocious.
In no way do I want to minimize your experience. Youíve been injured,
and you hurt.
The wrong idea I am referring to is the thought that
now you are forever damaged by your perpetrator. It is a false belief
to think that you will be forced to live with the effects of your
Here is what I think has happened to influence your
Many times, people see public service announcements
and docudramas or read literature on abuse. The purpose of these informational
pieces is a very beneficial one. Workers from many fields want everyone
to know how horrendous rape and sexual assault are. This is a good
thing. Hopefully, then, this can reduce the number of rapes and assaults
that are done to people.
In order to get their message out, they show you the
worst effects on the victim. There is an unfortunate side effect of
this image. Now people think of everyone who has ever experienced
rape or sexual assault as a victim. You begin feel you will forever
be damaged and forced to live with the effects of this terrible act
the rest of your life. Instead, posttraumatic stress disorder
is more similar to a broken arm. You set it and it heals.
If, however, you become like a huge number of people,
you want to immediately put it behind you. So you donít talk about
it, and try to forget it. Sound logical.
But it isnít. What happens instead is that your trauma
festers inside you. Your mind heals over it much like the bones in
a broken arm would heal over without medical treatment. The bones
in your body will knit themselves together even if a physician does
not set them. Only, they donít heal properly. Hold your arm out to
your side with your forearm and hand hanging down. Imagine that the
bones in your arm healed like that.
Your arm would be an irritant to you and others. We
could think about it as a symptom. It can be your symptom of an improperly
healed broken arm.
Old trauma that hasnít been treated, no matter how many
years ago, is like that arm described above. You have symptoms of
an untreated trauma. Your symptoms are painful, but very normal for
an untreated trauma.
So, please, donít give up. Seek treatment. If you are
in treatment that doesnít seem to be helping you, try someone else.
Keep seeking the help you need until you find it. In my previous
answers, I write about appropriate PTSD treatment and how to begin.