Rape-trauma syndrome

Rape-trauma syndrome

Domain 9. Coping-stress tolerance
Class 1. Post-trauma responses
Diagnostic Code: 00142
Nanda label: Rape-trauma syndrome
Diagnostic focus: Rape-trauma syndrome

Introduction To Nursing Diagnosis Rape-Trauma Syndrome

Rape-Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is a psychological trauma that can occur in an individual following a sexual assault. It is characterized by physical and emotional symptoms that persist over time and interfere with the individual’s ability to live and function in a healthy manner. The distressful symptoms of RTS are collectively referred to as rape trauma syndrome or rape trauma reaction. It is important for nurses to recognize the signs of RTS so that they can provide proper treatment and support for the individual.

NANDA Nursing Diagnosis Definition

According to the National Association of Nurses Diagnostic Services (NANDS), the nursing diagnosis for Rape-Trauma Syndrome is “Disturbed personal identity related to historical patterns of victimization.” The manifestations of this disorder may include flashbulks, nightmares, avoidance of people/situations associated with the rape/trauma, persistent physical symptoms, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and disrupted relationships.

Defining Characteristics List

The defining characteristics of RTS are divided into two categories: subjective and objective.

Subjective Defining Characteristics

Subjective defining characteristics of RTS include:

  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Feelings of betrayal and mistrust towards others
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Diminished sexual pleasure
  • Cognitive disturbances
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Experiencing intrusive thoughts related to the trauma
  • Avoidance of conversations and activities that are reminiscent of the trauma

Objective Defining Characteristics

Objective defining characteristics of RTS include:

  • Disturbed sleeping/eating habits
  • Increased level of fear or anxiety
  • Use of substances to cope with the trauma
  • Preoccupation with the traumatic event
  • Hypervigilance
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Startle response due to unexpected noises

Related Factors

The related factors associated with RTS are based on the circumstances surrounding the assault and can include:

  • Perpetrator-related factors: The presence of a perpetrator with characteristics such as manipulative tendencies or dominating control can greatly increase an individual’s risk of developing RTS.
  • Victim-related factors: Victims with low self-esteem, lack of family/social supports, lack of self-efficacy, and/or poor communication skills are more likely to experience RTS after a sexual assault.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain environmental triggers such as the location where the assault took place, or the presence of the perpetrator, can cause the individual to experience feelings of re-victimization or emotional distress.

At Risk Population

Individuals at risk of developing Rape-Trauma Syndrome include:

  • Victims of sexual assault: This includes individuals who have been victims of both stranger and non-stranger sexual assault.
  • Victims of other violent crimes: These individuals may be at risk of developing RTS depending on the severity of their trauma and the amount of support they are provided with.
  • Children: Children who witness or are victims of violence are at risk of developing RTS due to their limited coping skills and lack of knowledge about the extent of their traumatic experience.

Associated Conditions

Individuals with Rape-Trauma Syndrome may also experience symptoms related to associated conditions such as:

  • Depression: Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, fatigue, and/or difficulty concentrating associated with depression can be symptomatic of RTS.
  • Anxiety: Individuals experiencing RTS may also have heightened levels of anxiety such as immobilization, panic attacks, and/or hypervigilance.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD symptoms can range from flashbacks, nightmares, and/or intrusive thoughts related to the trauma.
  • Psychosomatic Disorders: Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and/or back pain can be attributed to RTS.

Suggested Use

Nurses should assess individuals with a history of rape/trauma to identify any potential signs of RTS. The nurse should strive to create a safe and supportive environment that enables the patient to discuss their experiences and feelings openly. In addition, the nurse should provide referrals to appropriate medical and psychological counseling services to help the patient manage their symptoms of RTS.

Suggested Alternative NANDA Nursing Diagnosis

Other possible nursing diagnoses for Rape-Trauma Syndrome include:

  • Violence, risk for re-victimization: This diagnoses is applicable to individuals who have experienced one episode of sexual assault and may be at risk of experiencing further abuse.
  • Endangerment, self-directed: This diagnoses is applicable to individuals who self-harm behaviorally or emotionally in an attempt to cope with their trauma.
  • Impaired social interaction: This diagnoses is applicable to individuals who struggle to interact and engage with peers socially due to their trauma.
  • Ineffective coping: This diagnosis is applicable to individuals who are unable to effectively manage their responses to traumatic situations.

Usage Tips

When working with individuals affected by Rape-Trauma Syndrome, it is important for the nurse to:

  • Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues that could indicate risk of re-victimization.
  • Provide educational materials and/or referrals to medical and psychological services regarding RTS.
  • Foster an atmosphere of support and understanding, while respecting the patient’s privacy and boundaries.
  • Remain sensitive to cultural differences, as some cultures may not permit the open expression of emotions.
  • Encourage the patient to maintain healthy strategies for managing their emotions, such as journaling and engaging in self-care activities.
  • Encourage the patient to seek help from friends and family members and build a social support network.

NOC Outcomes List

The following NOC Outcomes are applicable to individuals affected by Rape-Trauma Syndrome:

  • Engagement in Social Activities: This outcome measures the patient’s ability to interact with others in a meaningful manner.
  • Coping Effectiveness: This outcome measures the patient’s ability to effectively manage stressful situations.
  • Self-esteem: This outcome measures the patient’s perception of themselves and their self-worth.
  • Physical Activity Level: This outcome measures the patient’s level of involvement in physical activities.

Evaluation Objectives and Criteria

The evaluation objectives for assisting individuals affected by Rape-Trauma Syndrome are:

  • To help the patient develop effective coping strategies for managing their symptoms.
  • To help the patient to engage in meaningful activities and/or build a social support network.
  • To help the patient to maintain a healthy lifestyle and foster positive self-esteem.

Criteria for measuring success in achieving the above objectives include:

  • The patient will demonstrate improved engagement in activities and interactions with their environment.
  • The patient will demonstrate increased levels of self-confidence and self-efficacy.
  • The patient will demonstrate improved functioning across multiple domains.

NIC Interventions List

NIC interventions applicable to individuals affected by Rape-Trauma Syndrome include:

  • Telephone Reassurance: To provide emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation or loneliness.
  • Crisis Intervention: To provide safety and stability during times of extreme emotional distress.
  • Mental Health Education: To provide information regarding RTS and the various resources available for support.
  • Therapeutic Presence: To provide a sense of comfort and connection with the nurse.
  • Stress Management: To teach relaxation techniques and coping strategies for managing distress.

Nursing Activities

Nursing activities that should be implemented to assist individuals with Rape-Trauma Syndrome include:

  • Assessing the patient’s physical, psychological, and emotional status.
  • Monitoring the patient’s progress over time.
  • Identifying potential triggers and addressing them in a safe, supportive manner.
  • Maintaining clear and consistent communication with the patient.
  • Referring the patient to appropriate medical and/or psychological services.
  • Advocating for the patient’s legal rights and safety.


Rape-Trauma Syndrome is a complex psychological trauma that can have a profound impact on an individual’s physical and emotional wellbeing. It is important for nurses to recognize the signs and symptoms of RTS and provide support, education, and referrals to appropriate medical and psychological services. With understanding, compassion, and the necessary treatment, individuals affected by rape-trauma syndrome can regain a sense of safety and stability and live fuller, happier lives.


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