Reported responces to sexual trauma in people with intellectual disability: an analysis of clinical psychologists’ psycho-legal reports

Date: November 25, 2013
  • SHARE:

While a large body of literature suggests that rape and sexual assault in the general population is pathogenic, there is a dearth of literature on its impact on people with intellectual disability (ID). Several studies have reported that individuals with ID may experience a range of psychopathology following rape that is similar to that experienced by adults and children in the general population (i.e. PTSD, Major Depression) but with stronger behavioural reactions. The main aim of this research was to identify the response of individuals with ID who had experienced sexual trauma. This was an archival study of the Sexual Abuse Victim Empowerment (SAVE) projectâs clinical psychologistsâ notes and psycho-legal reports from 2005 â 2009 on 295 female, child and adult, sexual assault/rape survivors with ID. It was hypothesised that in the different PTSD symptom criteria clusters there would be more symptoms of increased arousal than re-experiencing and avoidance, that there would be a difference in the number of reported symptoms between different levels of ID, and between the number of symptoms reported by the different psychologists who assessed the sample. Descriptive statistics were generated for the frequency of reported symptoms and the different trauma variables. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) were used to test the three hypotheses. Principal findings indicated that symptoms of PTSD and depression were the most common with behavioural problems like aggression, oppositional and sexualised behaviours less frequently reported than in other literature. As hypothesised, symptoms of increased arousal were more prevalent than symptoms of re-experiencing and avoidance in the PTSD criteria clusters. This is possibly accounted for by the strong behavioural reactions people with ID reportedly have in response to trauma. A
significant difference was found between the number of symptoms reported between the different ID levels. The moderate group reported the most symptoms and the profound group the least. This is not seen to reflect an absence of distress, but rather a difficulty in eliciting information from individuals in the more severe range by the assessing clinical psychologists. The latter highlights the need for clinicians to explore alternative forms of communicating with people with expressive language difficulties in order to be better able to access their subjective experiences. There was a significant difference in the number of symptoms reported depending on which psychologist did the assessment. Further research on the impact of sexual trauma on people with ID in South Africa is required..

Publisher: University of Cape Town
Year of Publication: 2010

Comment on Reported responces to sexual trauma in people with intellectual disability: an analysis of clinical psychologists’ psycho-legal reports

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *