NPR

Building Strength And Resilience After A Sexual Assault: What Works

Sexual assault is still a highly stigmatized form of trauma, and that can complicate recovery for years, psychologists find. PTSD, depression and anxiety aren't unusual, but treatment can help.
Psychologists find that cognitive processing therapy — a type of counseling that helps people learn to challenge and modify their beliefs related to a trauma — can be useful in healing the mental health problems some experience after a sexual assault. Source: Hero Images/Getty Images

The wrenching testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault years ago, raises questions about the long-term emotional and physical toll this kind of trauma takes on survivors and how our society responds to those who come forward long after the assault.

Emily R. Dworkin, a senior fellow at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, studies how the social interactions of trauma survivors can affect their recovery. She was also the lead author of a paper published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review in 2017 that analyzed 200 of 100,000 studies conducted in the last 50 years on the relationship between sexual assault and mental health.

What she found, Dworkin says, is strong evidence that sexual assault is associated with an increased risk

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