©2011 by Paula J. Caplan All rights reserved
Sexually assaulted servicewomen labeled mentally ill
Think you'd heard it all? Being sexually assaulted apparently is not enough. The Service Women's Action Network reports that it is receiving reports from women serving in the United States military or attending service academies who, after being sexually assaulted and reporting what happened, are diagnosed almost immediately afterward by military therapists as having personality disorders. [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GSN/message/40367]
This is not a diagnosis that has the slightest relationship to the assault, certainly is not a label applied with the intention of describing a consequence of being raped. A personality disorder is considered to be a lifelong maladaptive organization of the entire personality, so it would have preceded the assault.
Why does this matter? Let me count the ways. First, it takes the focus off the perpetrator, because the victim who is supposedly mentally ill, and, by applying a personality disorder label, takes the focus off the assault and its consequences, placing it instead on the victim's life way before the time of the attack. Readers of my blog know I am no fan of psychiatric diagnosis in general, but if you want to diagnose an assault victim, how about choosing a label that is connected with the effects of assault, reflecting terror, despair, hypervigilance, hopelessness?