case four: Adolescent Girl, 17, Date Rape
Date rape is unfortunately quite prevalent in middle to older adolescent girls. It is especially confusing to these young victims because they are more likely to be seen as consenting participants in the act rather than as victims. This often exacerbates the trauma symptoms simply because they feel blamed and often have less support as a result. If these particular symptoms go untreated, they are at risk for quickly losing hope and caring about their future.
This 17 year old girl was in her senior year at a prestigious private school when she was date raped. She came to therapy hopeless and very depressed. She did not want to draw. She balked at the idea of art therapy and saw no point in it. All she did was talk about how her life was ruined, how she had wanted to go to college a virgin (which she was,) and how no man would ever want her again. I told her that just talking was fine, and we did verbal psychotherapy for several weeks. She kept a journal and made some progress, but graduation was nearing and she was still extremely symptomatic. She had decided to cancel her plans to attend the senior trip and the prom, and dropped out of most of her extra-curricular activities. She was considering postponing college for a year, to her parent’s dismay.
Eventually, I asked her to give drawing just one try. She was afraid because she said she had no artistic talent. I told her that it didn’t matter, because art therapy didn’t really work that way. She agreed to draw one picture.
She explained that it was a picture of her waving goodbye to her old self, before the rape, a girl that she would never see again, on a sea of her own tears. I commented that the current self in the picture was not at all what she looked like- with brown hair and overweight- that she still looked blond and slim and fashionable to me, like the girl in the boat, just sad. She was very surprised.
We did a lot more art and talking before she left for college. We also spent a lot of time looking in the mirror and drawing. (I have a full length mirror in my office for many reasons- not just for treating eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder, but because after most types of sexual abuse, body image issues arise.)
We also did a lot of psycho-education about date rape and how guilt- one of the number one symptoms- can distort your body image as well as your self image. And we talked about safety and prevention in preparation for campus life. She left saying she felt like she got her life back, and her parents were very grateful.

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