Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
January 14, 1999

RAPE TREATMENT STUDY:Emory Researchers Compare Psychotherapy Treatments for Rape-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Survivors of sexual assault are often plagued by symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) similar to survivors of combat, childhood abuse, witnessing horrific events and other major disasters.

Symptoms of PTSD can include distressing memories of the trauma, nightmares, strong emotional or physical reactions to reminders of the trauma, insomnia, emotional numbing, feeling jumpy or easily startled, difficulty concentrating and avoidance of reminders of the trauma. Without intervention, symptoms may persist indefinitely.

With more than 12 million women in the United States reporting a sexual assault at some point in their lifetime, PTSD is a significant health issue for women in this country.

Psychologists in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine are comparing the effectiveness of two established, short-term, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy treatments for PTSD in rape survivors. Both treatments have been used extensively with survivors of assault; one is Prolonged Imaginal Exposure and the other is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). While each therapy utilizes different techniques, both help the survivor work through the assault experience. This allows the survivor to become more comfortable with assault memories and promotes emotional resolution of the memories.

"We are comparing the two treatments to see if one is more effective or works more quickly," says principal investigator Barbara Rothbaum, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "The treatments we are offering in our research study are designed to help women deal with sexual assault so that they are not bothered as much by intrusive memories of the rape and the negative feelings which accompany those memories."

The researchers are seeking women over 18 who experienced a sexual assault (other than ongoing childhood abuse). They must be at least three months past the assault, but may be many years past the assault. Women accepted into the program will receive nine psychotherapy sessions over five weeks and psychological assessments for one year. All sessions will be provided free-of-charge and will be conducted by female, licensed clinical psychologists with extensive experience working with survivors of sexual assault. All information and treatment records remain confidential.

The study location is in Building B of The Emory Clinic, 1365 Clifton Rd., N.E., Atlanta.

"Even though this is a research study, our goal is to find the best treatments for women with PTSD and aid them in their recovery process," says Project Coordinator Dr. Millie Astin. "We will work with women to determine if our study is a good match for their needs and help them find other referrals if not."

Women interested in participating or persons who would like more information about the study may contact Dr. Astin at 404/ 778-2206.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

Copyright ©Emory University, 1999. All Rights Reserved.