Amazing Little Ecosystem (winterthunder) wrote in little_details,
Amazing Little Ecosystem

Emotional neglect and rape-related PTSD


I've done a quite a bit of research on a character I've created, but since this particular combination doesn't show up much in the scientific literature I figured I'd toss it out here and see if anyone could tell me if I've put the pieces together in a way that works.

Searched thusfar using Google and Google Scholar: emotional neglect, long term effects of emotional neglect, PTSD and rape, emotional neglect and PTSD

Setting: Current/recent US and Europe during a backpacking trip

I have a female character who grew up in a normal, loving family until she was eight, at which point her sister was in a serious accident resulting in permanent brain damage. Her parents were suddenly spending all their time at the hospital, and after a couple of years opted to care for her sister at home. The character's physical needs were met, but emotionally she was on her own because her parents simply didn't have the time for her. The story takes place when she's in her early twenties, and she's developed into a very determined (bordering on ruthless) individual who keeps tight control over her life and her emotions in her pursuit of attention through excellence. (ie, subconsciously she's decided to be so good that no one can ignore her)

Once she got to college, she ran through several boyfriends in quick succession before settling into a year-long relationship with a guy that she thought she might marry. I'm assuming that her lack of attention as a child will mean that she tends to look for relationships that will provide attention/affection. Unfortunately, her boyfriend is introduced to meth at a party and becomes addicted, leading to a rough end to the relationship. He robs her apartment to pay for his drug habit and she has him arrested. He posts bail and returns to her apartment while high; he rapes her and carves his initials into her the skin over her collarbone, saying that she's his and will never be able to escape him that easily. When he comes down off the high he begins vomiting, allowing her to escape.

Here's where I'm not as sure. The story opens a couple of years after all of this. She hasn't dated anyone since her rape, and has become somewhat more ruthless with regards to suppressing her negative emotion. She meets a guy in circumstances that are favorable for a relationship (they're traveling and spending lots of time together.) The guy knows about her emotional neglect but not her rape. I'm assuming she'll be uncomfortable with him at first, and gradually become more accepting. She's actively suppressing the memories of the rape, but I have pieces of them coming through from time to time. She has a flashback during her first sexual encounter with the new guy. Eventually she will tell him about the rape, and I have this as a turning point for her, because she's trusting him enough to tell him what happened. Until then she will go through several cycles of beginning to trust this guy and then pulling away as the intensity of her emotions for this new guy and the memories of her rape become overwhelming. She will also pull away and become agitated at any hint that she doesn't have complete control of the situation, if she feels that someone is pressuring her to do something or she feels that she's being manipulated.

So, does all this ring true to those of you who have knowledge in these matters? Would she be likely to have flashbacks outside of a sexual encounter? How long would it take her to engage sexually without risking a flashback? She's an extremely determined and single minded individual, so I'm assuming that once she decides she wants to be with this new guy she'll be able to overcome the flashbacks, though the memory triggers will probably persist. I'm also thinking that her need to control her emotions and her life, dating back to the emotional neglect but intensified by the rape, will recede somewhat as she comes to terms with her past and her new relationship, but will probably remain present at a reduced level for the rest of her life.

Thanks much!
Tags: ~psychology & psychiatry (misc), ~psychology & psychiatry: ptsd, ~sexual abuse & assault

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