Decades later, sexual violence memories still vivid in women

Washington: Researchers suggest that women who are sexually assaulted experience more vivid memories than women coping with the aftermath of other traumatic, life-altering events not associated with sexual violence even decades later. The research, published in the journal, ‘Frontiers in Neuroscience,’ found that women who had suffered from sexual violence, even those who were not diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, had more intense memories — even decades after the violence occurred — that are difficult, if not impossible to forget.

Studies have shown that sexual aggression and violence is one of the most likely causes of PTSD in women, a condition that is associated with decreased brain functions related to learning and memory that can be both physically and mentally debilitating and difficult to overcome. “Women in our study who ruminated more frequently also reported more trauma-related symptoms. One could imagine how rumination could exacerbate trauma symptoms and make recovery from the trauma more difficult,” said Emma Millon, a Rutgers graduate student and co-author of the research.

Shors has developed a new treatment to lessen these vivid memories and help women recover that is different from the traditional Prolonged Exposure Therapy, which includes recollecting the traumatic memory during interviews, story writing and even revisiting the traumatic location. Mental and Physical Training (MAP Training) developed by Shors combined 30-minutes of mental training with silent meditation followed by 30-minutes of aerobic exercise, twice a week for six weeks.