Traumatic events can result in serious stress and detrimental consequences for survivors who are women and their families.
abused woman

What Is Trauma?

Traumatic events include physical, psychological and sexual abuse; terrorism and war; domestic violence; witnessing violence against others; and accidents and natural disasters. They can result in serious stress and detrimental consequences for survivors and their families.

Approximately one half (50 percent) of all individuals will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.

Although the majority of individuals will be able to absorb the trauma over time, many survivors will experience long-lasting problems.

Approximately 8 percent of survivors will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Many survivors currently living with PTSD experience symptoms that are both chronic and severe. These include: nightmares, insomnia, somatic disturbances, difficulty with intimate relationships, fear, anxiety, anger, shame, aggression, suicidal behaviors, loss of trust and isolation.

Psychological disorders may also occur in conjunction with PTSD including depression, anxiety and alcohol/substance abuse problems.

Approximately one half of all individuals will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.

Women at Risk

Research indicates that women are twice as likely to develop PTSD, experience a longer duration of posttraumatic symptoms and display more sensitivity to stimuli that remind them of the trauma.

Although women are at greater risk for negative consequences following traumatic events, many often hesitate to seek mental health treatment. Survivors often wait years to receive help, while others never receive treatment at all.

Untreated posttraumatic symptoms not only have tremendous mental health implications, but can also lead to adverse effects on physical health. Female survivors may encounter physical symptoms including headaches, gastro-intestinal problems and sexual dysfunction.

Although the mental and physical symptoms of PTSD stress can be quite debilitating, trauma is often undiagnosed by health professionals due to a lack of training, time and resources.

There are a variety of effective treatment interventions for women who have survived traumatic events, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, group treatment, pharmacotherapy and psychodynamic interventions.

Policy Recommendations to Assist Female Survivors of Trauma

Support Increased Funding for Research on Women and Trauma

  • Epidemiological studies

  • Models for prevention and early intervention

  • Development and evaluation of assessment tools

  • Development and evaluation of treatment interventions

  • Prevention of intergenerational consequences of trauma

Support Increased Training Regarding Women, Trauma and Abuse

  • Mental health professionals/medical personnel

  • School personnel (e.g., teachers and administrators)

  • Law enforcement/juvenile justice personnel

  • Advocates

  • Children, parents/guardians and caregivers

  • Community agencies

  • Native/indigenous and rural professionals

Support Increased Services for Female Survivors and their Families

  • Prevention and early intervention programs

  • Systematic trauma screening

  • Integrative systems of care

  • Primary care collaborations

  • School-based programs

  • Community outreach

  • Parent-child interventions

  • Case management

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