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Study finds prevalence of trauma among Yazidi women freed from ISIS captivity
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Study finds prevalence of trauma among Yazidi women freed from ISIS captivity

Tortured, raped and sold as sex slaves, the Yazidi women captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) endured more than just sexual violence. Being repeatedly beaten and locked away, these women suffered unspeakable brutality at the hands of their captors. While many have returned to their families, they struggle to adjust to their daily lives. Traumatized by their past, they still feel unsafe and shattered.

In order to study the psychological effects of ISIS brutality on those living in post-ISIS camps, a team of Bar-Ilan University researchers conducted a study to examine the effects of trauma in post-ISIS camps. Although sufficient proof regarding the ISIS brutality against women in the Kurdish religious minority has been documented in the literature, the study aimed to examine post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex post-traumatic-stress disorder (CPTSD) among former female Yazidi captives residing in post-ISIS camps. According to the research published in the World Psychiatry journal, a large percentage of such women suffer from CPTSD.

During the study, researchers surveyed resettled female Yazidi captives, all in their 20s, over a two-month period (February-March 2017) in four refugee camps. For the research, dichotomous (yes/no) exposure items such as family members injured or killed; experiencing shelling, shooting, sexual abuse, injury, torture, physical abuse or rape; and witnessing mass killings were combined to produce the overall score. The study participants were administered the ICD-11 PTSD questionnaire and were also assessed in terms of stress or prior experience of sexual abuse, physical abuse, violence and hunger on a five-point Likert scale.

During the research, CPTSD probability was higher (more than 50 percent) than PTSD (20 percent). The CPTSD group also reported higher post-ISIS stress. Additionally, the prevalence of CPTSD was more than what was estimated in those who experienced captivity/torture alone or only sexual abuse. The findings reflected the “unique type of endured trauma combining captivity with sexual slavery.”

According to the researchers, the study proves that the atrocities committed by ISIS has far-reaching consequences with enormous psychological effects. Given the prevalence of CPTSD, the authors suggested devising suitable interventions with safety as the “central initial goal” combined with psychoeducation to target hypersensitive victims. They also suggested that traditional treatment modalities for PTSD might not be sufficient as they only focus on fear reduction.

Repeated trauma with little chance of escape

As compared to PTSD post experiencing a traumatic or life-threatening event, CPTSD leads to a person experiencing chronic trauma that repeats for months or years from where there is little chance of escape. Some of the traumatic situations that can cause the condition include long-term domestic violence, prostitution, being a prisoner of war camps, long-term exposure to a crisis, long-term childhood abuse (physical or sexual), among others.

Some of the symptoms may include persistent feeling of shame and detachment, chronic fear of abandonment, sense of hopelessness and despair, distrust, difficulty controlling emotions and difficulty in forgetting traumatic events. A clinician may misdiagnose CPTSD as PTSD or as just a personality disorder. Chronic trauma survivors can make the assessment extremely tough by refusing to think and talk about trauma-related topics or indulging in self-harm behavior or substance abuse.

Specialized care for trauma and abuse survivors

Though standard clinical treatments for PTSD might be effective in treating CPTSD to a certain extent in some cases, it also demands addressing interpersonal difficulties and symptoms specific to the condition.

Known for dedicated finest trauma treatment centers for women, Sovereign Health ensures comprehensive treatment in a safe and secure environment. We understand that a woman who has experienced trauma might want to start afresh but are reluctant to ask for help. Therefore, in addition to evidence-based therapies, we offer them essential coping skills to maintain overall good health and lead a normal life once out of the rehab. For more information regarding our women only trauma treatment programs, you can call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with our representative.

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