Sexual assault survivors and PTSD

Sexual assault survivors may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”). PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.  They result from physiological damage to the Amygdala and to the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC). The amygdala detects threats in the environment and activates the “fight or flight” response and activates the sympathetic nervous system to help deal with the threat. The PFC regulates attention and awareness, make decisions about the best response to a situation, initiate conscious, voluntary behavior, determines the meaning and emotional significance of events, regulate emotions, and inhibits or corrects dysfunctional reactions.

Studies of people with PTSD show a hyper reactive amygdala and a less activated medial PFC. In other words, the amygdala reacts too strongly to a potential threat while the medial PFC is impaired in its ability to regulate the threat response. The consequences present symptomatically in a number of ways.

Symptoms of intrusive memories:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event

Symptoms of avoidance:

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood:

  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb

Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions:

  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

PTSD is a serious disorder. If you have been the victim of a sexual assault at work, speak with your medical doctor and call our office. We may be able to help you.

Veterans still struggling to find work

It has been more than 10 years since the  U.S. invasion of Iraq, the start of a war that still divides our nation.  President Barack Obama pulled the final U.S. forces out, but the war is still taking a toll on veterans and their families, on our federal finances and on Iraqis.  In the wake of 9/11 President George Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell made the case that Saddam Hussein was set to use weapons of mass destruction, which he did not possess.  The war cost $2.2 trillion. 100,000 Iraqis died. Nearly 4,500 Americans lost their lives, many lost limbs and countless others returned from service suffering from PTSD and Depression.

Unfortunately, thousands of United States servicemen and women are still struggling to find work.  Yes, unemployment remains high, but the rate of unemployment among our veterans of foreign wars is much higher than the national average. One cannot help but wonder to what extent American employers are holding our Nation’s veterans’ military service against them, possibly stereotyping them as psychologically damaged, unreliable or too costly to insure.  Returning veterans who are experiencing difficulty finding work should understand that they are not the problem.  Employers are not allowed to discriminate against applicants for employment on the basis of prior military service.  Nor are they allowed to refuse to employ veterans who may require reasonable accommodations to re-integrate into the civilian workforce.

See our pages on Military Service and USERRA and the Americans with Disabilities Act for more information.