Tag Archives: research

When a woman’s first sexual experience is forced, a look at the impact


Laura Hawkes and colleagues have published a prevalence and impact study of American women and their first sexual experience. The sample of women between the ages of 18 and 44 (13,000 plus) records that 6% experienced rape as their first sexual experience. On average, the rape took place when the woman was 15 years of age. The perpetrator was, on average, 27 years of age. (For a news oriented summary of this study, go to this story on NPR.

Force (of any kind) + unwanted sex = rape

When you think of the term rape, you may immediately imagine physical violence. And certainly, many sexual assaults and rape are unimaginably violent acts. But, it is important to realize that verbal and emotional coercion may also play a very large role in forced sex/rape. When a person uses their position, status, verbal power, threats of violence, threats of loss of safety, emotional manipulation and the like to get another person to engage in sexual intercourse, this can be defined as rape. If it was unwanted but the person did not physically fight back, it is still considered rape.

Rape of any kind is destructive and traumatizing. For some, emotional coercion adds an extra layer of shame and trauma because either they or others may not consider the experience an assault. “Well, he didn’t hold a gun to my head…” or “I didn’t fight him off…so maybe it wasn’t really an assault.” Common but destructive questions such as, “What were you wearing? Why did you go there” add additional trauma.

What impact might that have on a person?

When forced sex is the first sexual experience, there are a cascade of potential health problems that may plague the victim. Reproductive health consequences loom large as to be expected. Many of these continue long afterwards. Mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addictions also may become chronic experiences. In what may be often overlooked, chronic insomnia (a not surprising result) can lead to long-term auto-immune disorders and cancers. No wonder we don’t just “get over” something like this.

Discouraged? Yes. Helpless? No.

You can read a study like this and leave feeling discouraged about our society. That would be an appropriate response. And, you may also leave knowing that you can do two things that do make a difference:

  1. Increase your awareness of and compassion for those who have experienced rape/sexual assault. Your capacity to hold their stories and acknowledge the impact may actually begin to lessen shame and isolation and improve quality of life.
  2. Be willing to speak up about any and all behavior that minimizes abuses of power, especially as it relates to sexual activity.

To read the official abstract of the study, go here.

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Belief in a loving God and Depression?


Thanks to a friend’s sharp eyes, I learned of this news release from Rush University Medical Center:

Research suggests that religious belief can help protect against symptoms of depression, but a study at Rush University Medical Center goes one step further.

In patients diagnosed with clinical depression, belief in a concerned God can improve response to medical treatment, according to a paper in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

The release goes on to say that the positive benefit did not stem from hope but in belief in a caring God. What it doesn’t say is whether or not those NOT taking medications get positive benefit from a belief in a caring God.

What do you make of this? Should we get excited when research confirms our established beliefs? Should we look for alternative explanations? I would be curious how they separated hope and belief. Hope and belief that God is active and looking out for you probably encourages you to look for and remember evidence! The more you look for the evidence the more you practice being mindful of something bigger than your despair.

What is your reaction?

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Filed under Depression, Despair, Psychiatric Medications

Do no harm?


[This is the second guest post I am making over on the www.christianpsych.org. You’ll have to click the link to read the whole post…]

Every counseling ethics code in existence includes this principle: Do no harm. This maxim is drilled into the heads of counseling students (and any other medical professional as well). Our work should help, not hurt. Who could disagree?

But pause for a minute and consider how you might evaluate whether an intervention helps or harms. What criteria will you use? From what vantage point will you evaluate the criteria you choose? If a medical treatment extends life for an ill patient that would seem good—unless it keeps them alive and in a vegetative state with no possibility of recovery. Some would then wonder if the treatment was indeed best. Or, is it harmful if marriage counseling encourages truthfulness between spouses leading to the revelation of a terrible betrayal leading on to divorce and financial ruin? If honesty is your criteria for helpfulness, then the intervention is sad but helpful. If stability is your criteria, then such counseling is harmful. We could go on and on. Do we use client interpretation of whether treatment is helpful or counselor observation? Do we consider the difference between short and long term evaluation? And importantly for Christians, do we consider only statistical analyses or do we also consider biblical categories (e.g., intervention “A” leads to increased positive affect but encourages clients to pray to another deity).

Despite the muddy water I just churned up, I want to argue that Christian psychology is well poised to help Christian counselors provide treatment that does not harm. This society includes some of the best philosophers, theologians, sociologists, clinicians, and researchers of our day. These members are interested in looking at how people grow and change, how the bible connects with everyday life, common human struggles and effective interventions, etc.

How then do we go about refining our practices and avoiding harm? Let me suggest some steps we might take:

[rest of post on www.christianpsych.org.]

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Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, Psychology