College-Age Victims of Sexual Violence Experience More Vivid Memories Than Victims of Other Trauma

A new study from Rutgers University in New Jersey has found that women who have suffered from sexual violence have more intense memories of their trauma than women who have suffered trauma of other nature. The researchers found this to be true even among women who were not diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The researchers examined 183 college-aged women, 64 of whom reported being victims of sexual violence. The women who had suffered from sexual abuse reported stronger memories with specific details, including seeing the incident clearly in their mind. They also reported having a harder time forgetting the event and believed it to be a significant part of their life. Dr. Tracey Shors, professor in the department of psychology and co-author of the study stated that “each time you reflect on an old memory, you make a new one in your brain because it is retrieved in the present space and time. What this study shows is that this process can make it even more difficult to forget what happened.”

Dr. Shors has developed a new treatment to help women recover and lessen the vivid memories they experience. The treatment, called Mental and Physical (MAP) Training, combines 30 minutes of mental training with silent meditation follow by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, twice a week for six weeks. It has shown decreases in trauma symptoms and trauma-related thoughts among women who have participated.

Dr. Shors holds bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology from the University of Alabama and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physiological psychology and neuroscience from the University of Southern California.

The study, “Stressful Life Memories Relate to Ruminative Thoughts in Women With Sexual Violence History, Irrespective of PTSD,” was published on the website of the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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