Helping others may be the key to posttraumatic growth following sexual victimisation

12 October 2021

A systematic review of literature on posttraumatic growth after sexual victimisation has revealed that even though experiences of sexual violence have been linked to a multitude of physical and mental health problems' some victim/survivors recover from trauma and live without notable negative impacts.

A study led by Dr Marika Guggisberg from CQUniversity' Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research (QCDFVR)' has found that posttraumatic growth following sexual victimisation is occurring and that even though the healing process is unique for each individual' there is strong evidence to suggest that employing altruistic strategies had a positive therapeutic impact.

Dr Guggisberg explained that those victim/survivors who implemented strategies that allowed them to help others had strong indicators of posttraumatic growth.

"The results suggest that victim/survivors employed various strategies resulting in higher degrees of functioning (termed 'growth').

"Our analysis identified two superordinate topics in relation to post traumatic growth function which were 'relationship to self' and 'relationship to others'.

"Findings indicated that victim/survivors engaged in deliberate introspection to connect with themselves and utilised altruistic actions and/or activism in an attempt to prevent further sexual victimisation. Helping others deal with the sexual violence facilitated posttraumatic growth'" said Dr Guggisberg.

"This systematic review shows that experiencing 'meaning making' activities such as empowering along with helping other victim/survivors has a positive impact in both the short and long terms.

"Becoming involved in the help and support of others may prove to be a successful therapeutic vehicle for victim survivors but further investigation into the concept of posttraumatic growth is urgently needed."

Dr Guggisberg recommends that further research into posttraumatic growth should explore lifetime sexual victimisation' specific victim/survivor groups such as males exposed to non-intrafamilial sexual violence' and priority populations.

"Undertaking further research into posttraumatic growth will help us to better understand the best therapeutic approaches to supporting the victim survivors of sexual violence and how to implement these approaches.

"A better understanding will also allow us to develop best practice early intervention strategies to support both mental and physical recovery.

"Through this understanding we have an opportunity to inform policy and the delivery of support services that truly recognise the needs of victim/survivors".