Group Cognitive Therapy Helps Rape Victims Heal

    18 June, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    Group cognitive therapy is a form of mental health treatment. A study has found that this form of talk therapy can help rape victims in war-torn countries where there are few trained psychologists. Researchers say the findings show the counselors in a community can be trained to provide group cognitive therapy.

    Judith Bass is a professor of mental health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. He says rape victims in war-torn countries, face a series of short and long-term health and psychological problems, these include depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Sudden sounds or events can trigger memories of the rape.

    Group Cognitive Therapy Helps Rape Victims Heal
    A mass rape victim comforts her son in the town of Fizi, Congo, Feb. 20, 2011.

    Professor Bass says sexual violence affects not just the victims but the whole communities where they live.

    "This problem of rape and violence against women is not only about the act of violence but it's also becoming, unfortunately, wider spread as it is being used in the arsenal of warring factions to dehumanize and humiliate populations."

    Professor Bass says women who are raped often suffer not only from  social stigma in their communities, they also have a fear of returning to the site of the violence, and they worry about whether they can meet the needs of their families.

    Cognitive behavioral group therapy has been shown to be effective in wealthier Western countries. Professor Bass and other researchers investigated whether it could help women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) overcome their fears and depression. The DRC has faced more than 30 years of conflict since it's independence from Belgium in 1960.

    After six months, 42 percent of those in individual counseling who were depressed at the start of the therapy no longer showed signs of depression. By comparison, 70 percent of those who participate in cognitive behavior groups were no longer considered depressed. In these groups, the women discussed goals and learned skills for overcoming their depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

    Professor Bass says rape victims in villages with few psychologists could be successfully treated by counselors with good listening skills and comparatively little training.

    "They could do it right and they didn't need to have high levels of education, and the services didn't need to have clinicians available."

    Except to provide training and meet with the therapists from time to time. The study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

    Professor Bass says she's looking forward to seeing how well the strategy for training low-level counselors works with rape victims in other war-torn countries.

    Since 2000, the United Nations Security Council has passed nine resolutions denouncing rape during times of war as a human rights abuse.

    And that's the Health Report from VOA Learning English, I'm Christopher Cruise.