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Trauma, sexual trauma & counselling Essay

• A strain we feel at different times/in different situations • Set of external forces impinging on the person (unemployment, crime, etc) • Set of psychological & physiological reactions (racing heart, sweating palms etc) • Can be opportunity for growth – The spark that pushes us into action • The extent to which an individual experiences stress depends on the event, together with the individual’s personality & ability to cope

• A normal reaction to a difficult experience an individual has not faced before • In crises a person feels – Confused, overwhelmed & unable to cope • Can be an external event, or an internal one caused by development • A turning point – An opportunity to learn skills, find resources & adapt

Trauma Definitions
• “Situations in which the victim is rendered powerless and great danger is involved” “Profound deviation from normal life experience”
THUS sudden, overwhelming, unanticipated, suggests threat of injury or death. experience – fear, helplessness, loss of control & extreme powerlessness • Traumatic events – extraordinary

– overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life
– generally involve threats to life or bodily integrity, or a close personal encounter with
violence or death.
• Most notable characteristic:
the feelings of helplessness & terror that victims are left to deal with.

The Effects of Trauma
• Trauma overtaxes the ability to cope
• Can damage mental health
• Traumatised people feel & act as though their nervous systems have been disconnected from the present:
– Persistent expectation of danger
– Imprint of the traumatic event that does not fade
– Numbing response of giving up that becomes generalised.
• Psychologically & mentally, trauma refers to:
– wounding of emotions, will to live
– beliefs about the self & the world
– dignity and sense of self & security
• Impacts normal ways of thinking & feeling, so previous coping mechanisms to handle stress is no longer functional.
• Victim feels like a thing, a vulnerable object, subject to the will of a power/force greater than themselves

Different Kinds of Traumas
• Natural disasters(flood, fire, hurricane, etc)
• Man-made catastrophes(war, terrorism, bus disasters, etc) • Unintentional violence(car accidents, culpable homicide) • Intentional violence (forms of victimisation involving threat to life, health & limb)

• Trauma caused by nature → Disaster
Trauma caused by humans → Atrocity

Direct vs Indirect Trauma
• Indirect trauma – affects those exposed to or witnessing the traumatic event
– symptoms of indirect victims can be identical to those of direct victims
– family of the victim, those in helping profession, children in domestic violence situations • Can be a victim of direct & indirect trauma at the same time – witnessing a rape/murder while being held hostage.

Single vs Multiple Trauma
• Trauma can be a single event, or multiple events (being hijacked more than once) Continuous vs Complex Trauma
• Continuous Traumatic stress:
– Situations in which people are exposed to ongoing trauma
– Residents of areas with high levels of violent crime
– Repeated exposure to violent situations
– Develop a numbing response to additional traumatic events, making it difficult to detect they are traumatised
– Can seem lethargic or depressed, don’t understand what is going on & so don’t seek assistance • Complex Trauma:
– Situations in which victims experience prolonged, repeated traumatic events
– Usually there is a relationship between the victim & offender
– Victim is under control of offender, and cannot escape for an extended period
– First trauma is unexpected, but over time the victim awaits further incidents with enormous
psychological tension
– Eg marital rape or child sexual abuse

• People respond differently – One person’s “stressful event” can be another person’s “trauma”
All are relative to how individuals react to situations
• A hypothetical continuum plots stress, crises & trauma, plotting the increase in intensity • In practice it can be difficult to draw distinctions, the client’s definition should always be used

• Sexual trauma is:
– Trauma of a sexual nature
– The trauma creates emotional turmoil for the survivor
– May impair the survivor’s functioning in certain areas (self-esteem, relationships & sexuality)
– Problems may manifest much later, when the survivor develops understanding of the wrongness of the
activities they participated in,
given that participation may even have been passive.

1.2.1 Rape and Child Sexual Abuse
• 1 in 4 children in SA are sexually abused at some time
• Just as many boys as girls under age 10 are sexually abused • 80% of offenders are well known to, and trusted by, their victims • There has been a significant increase in young offenders (

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