The Fallacy Of Rape Trauma Syndrome

  By VennerRoad, 10th Sep 2016

Rape trauma syndrome is widely advocated by feminist so-called scholars to validate claims of rape, but like so much feminist dogma, it has no basis in fact.

Elizabeth Smart

Rape is not only one of the most controversial subjects of modern times, but it is one about which much rubbish is spouted, often in the name of advocating for victims. While there is nothing ignoble in trying to help people who have suffered adversity, it is a sad fact that many otherwise worthy causes can be and are tainted by malicious or simply misguided actors. Terrorism is of course the most extreme example of this, but there are many acts that while falling far short of terrorism have pernicious effects on both individuals and society as a whole. The sexual grievance industry and most notably anti-rape activists (so-called) are in the forefront of this.

While rape and lesser sexual crimes are serious problems that need to be addressed, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing this, indeed there are many wrong ways, one of which is to greatly exaggerate the dangers women and girls face from sexual predators and the effects rape has on victims. Another is to use these exaggerations to undermine due process. Sadly the feminist movement has had great success in so doing, and the assault on due process is ongoing.

Corroboration is no longer required in most jurisdictions to convict a man of rape, including in the UK, Canada, the USA, India and others. The removal of statutes of limitations in Canada and the attack on them elsewhere is another recipe for injustice. This half hour video explains the dangers of convicting without corroboration, and this shorter one gives an insight into what happened in England where there are no statutes of limitations, and the resulting witch-hunts of both celebrities and politicians has led to both injustice and farce.

Another partially successful attack on due process was made with the invention of rape trauma syndrome and the attempt to use this and similar junk science as expert evidence in courtrooms to prove an alleged rape victim is telling the truth rather than fantasising or simply lying for whatever reason. For an insight into the reasons women lie about rape, the reader may wish to consult the International False Rape Timeline which also gives many examples (over two thousand to date) of false allegations of rape by women and girls as well as occasionally by men and boys.

You may well have heard the phrase rape trauma syndrome, and be aware of some of the claims made about it; it is used to explain or to explain away the at times seemingly irrational way women react after allegedly being raped, most usually the failure to report a rape reasonably promptly when physical evidence would corroborate it, or in a case where a woman continues to have a consensual sexual relationship, sometimes for months, with the man who allegedly raped her. The actual nature of RTS varies from advocate to advocate, but the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center in Washington State lists four phases: the acute stage; the underground stage; the reorganization stage; and the development stage. This includes a wide range of symptoms, a handful of which are both non-contentious and non-controversial:

Many victims report a general feeling of soreness all over their body. Others specify the body area that was the focus of the assailant’s force such as throat, chest, arms, or legs. Victims also report physical symptoms specific to the area of the body that was the focus of the sexual assault.

Who will argue with any of that? Most genuine rape victims fight their attackers; if you were grasped by the throat or punched heavily on any part of your body, you would probably feel sore too.

Victims forced to have oral sex may describe irritation to the mouth and throat. Victims forced to have vaginal sex may have vaginal discharge, itching, a burning sensation during urination, and generalized pain. Those forced to have anal sex may report rectal pain and bleeding in the days immediately following the rape.

Again, these symptoms are horrible but non-contentious; they are also real evidence, and if reported promptly will usually help convict the sexual predator concerned, but what of the other so-called symptoms of rape victims?

Here is the view of one feminist:

Women who choose to prosecute criminally men who have sexually assaulted them must prove that they did not “consent” to the act. To do this, they must also challenge the beliefs held about rape by police officers, prosecutors, judges, and juries. These beliefs, called “rape myths” in the social psychology literature, deny the pervasiveness of rape; assert that virtuous women cannot be raped; suggest that women who are raped somehow “asked for it;” dictate certain victim responses to the aftermath of rape as “normal;” and insist that, barring physical injuries, rape is a relatively trifling harm.

The above (notes omitted) is from a 1990 article Rape Trauma Syndrome: An Evidentiary Tool (published in the Canadian Journal Of Women And The Law), by Ann Marie Delorey.

The author credits Elizabeth Sheehy as an inspiration: “teacher, sister, and friend”. Sheehy’s views on sexual assault - real and imagined - are toxic, as is evinced by her reaction to the acquittal of Jian Ghomeshi who was dragged into court earlier this year by a gaggle of demented witches. So what is wrong with the concept of rape trauma syndrome, apart from everything?

The phrase entered the English language in 1974 when Ann Wolbert Burgess and Lynda Lytle Holmstrom published an article so titled in The American Journal Of Psychiatry; the former is a forensic nurse; the latter, a career academic. Their article is based on a study of 146 patients admitted to a major American hospital for sexual assault between July 20, 1972 and July 19, 1973. Of these, 92 adult women were victims of forcible rape (including attempted rape). As is usual with such studies, the individuals concerned were anonymised, and as no further details are given, we have no way of knowing if all these women were in fact raped. It is though a fair assumption that they were, because a woman who reports a rape promptly and attends a hospital, should be regarded as an extremely credible victim. Again, not all are, but this is a reasonable assumption here.

The two researchers interviewed all these women, following up on them, and found that in addition to the reasonably expected physical symptoms they suffered varied emotional reactions. Some had nightmares. Some were fearful of crowds. Some feared being indoors. Some had problems with sexual relationships and the actual act. So what can we learn from this? Rape is a negative experience which can be simply bad or life-shattering or anything in between. When bad things happen to us, we feel bad. They go much further than this though, claiming “Since a significant proportion of women still do not report a rape, clinicians should be alert to a syndrome that we call the silent reaction to rape.”

Obviously some women don’t report being raped, but no one knows for certain how many do not, so to claim this is a significant number is at best unscientific. Then they go on to warn clinicians to be alert to women who are suffering in silence and advise them how to detect such women by observing them. In other words, they advocate the use of rape trauma syndrome as a diagnostic tool.

The concept of rape trauma syndrome has been debunked comprehensively including in this 2014 article, but let’s not leave it to the academics. The bottom line is that apart from the physical evidence, which should never be discounted without good reason, all the other so-called evidence, of emotional trauma and so on, is evidence of nothing.

The case of Lori McLuckie is an extreme example. She was raped quite violently by a man she invited to her apartment. Although he was tried and acquitted, there can be no doubt that she was indeed raped. The reason for his acquittal was that Lori did not look or act like a rape victim; when she took the stand she did not burst into tears or even become emotional. Indeed, she would probably not have reported the rape if an older man - who was perhaps her only friend - had not encouraged her to. For Lori, being raped was no big thing, at least not emotionally. Sadly, she went on to murder another man, one she accused falsely of raping her.

In the notorious Mike Tyson case, Desiree Washington did not report her rape as soon as possible, and was clearly subdued if not traumatised by the incident. As far as rapes go it does not appear to have been particularly violent, but this was probably due to her freezing when pinned down by the much bigger Tyson. This does happen, although not as often as the sexual grievance industry would have us believe. There was also clear physical evidence of if not actual rape then vigorous intercourse. After the trial, the victim disappeared into obscurity.

Contrast this with the far more terrible case of Elizabeth Smart who was kidnapped from her bed at knifepoint by a religious fanatic and raped repeatedly over a period of months. She is now not only a married woman but an advocate for victims of sexual violence. Such is the force of her personality that she can be forgiven for having swallowed whole much of the feminist rape narrative. Again, her terrible ordeal appears to have had no detrimental psychological effects on her.

Let us not stop here though, let us consider instead the cases of two men, who although not victims of sexual assault, both drank themselves to death at a relatively young age.

In 2000, M was a family man with two sons and two daughters. Then his life went downhill. Three years later he and his wife separated then divorced in spite of having a fifth child. He became violent, struggled with depression, committed acts of vandalism, served a prison sentence for wounding his brother, and died in 2014 of natural causes aged 45.

K was a father of six, a successful actor who split from his wife in 1995, after being married 22 years. He was drinking heavily, and she accused him of violence. Two years later he published his autobiography, but his drinking was out of control. His employers paid for him to go into rehab, but after turning up on set drunk in April 1998, he was sacked. Less than a week later, he was dead at 49.

Both these men went downhill, K quicker than M, but from the histories given above, can you determine which of them suffered a terrible trauma while by all accounts, the other one didn’t?

From the information given you could not tell which if either had, much less what that trauma was. K was the actor Kevin Lloyd, whose only pretext for his abuse of the demon alcohol was that of his profession. M was Michael Payne, whose daughter Sarah was murdered in 2000, an infamous case.

By contrast Sarah Payne’s mother is made of different stuff; among her many other achievements, in December 2009 she suffered a serious medical condition that required brain surgery, but pulled through. Clearly she is tough as old boots.

With all the foregoing in mind, the reader should now be able to see just how useless is the concept of rape trauma syndrome, because just as almost any behaviour is consistent with the murder of a beloved daughter, so is almost any behaviour consistent with a woman being raped, or not being raped. Here is a dynamic but plain-speaking defense attorney explaining this.

Finally, where this non-existent syndrome is admitted as so-called expert evidence, it does not always work in favour of the prosecution. For example, in State v Taylor there was compelling physical evidence that a rape had been committed; Taylor did not testify, and was given a typically heavy sentence, but the Supreme Court of Missouri reversed his conviction because it agreed with rulings in other jurisdictions that though RTS may be a therapeutic tool useful in counselling, in the courtroom it is scientifically unreliable and prejudicial.

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