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Evaluation of psychological support for victims of sexual violence in a conflict setting: results from Brazzaville, Congo

  • 2009/04/01
Type of publication
  • Articles
Authors
  • Hustache S
  • Moro MR
  • Roptin J
  • Souza R
  • Gansou GM
  • Mbemba A
  • Roederer T
  • Grais RF
  • Gaboulaud V
  • Baubet T
Themes
  • Mental Health
  • Emergency response

BACKGROUND: Little is known about the impact of psychological support in war and transcultural contexts and in particular, whether there are lasting benefits. Here, we present an evaluation of the late effect of post-rape psychological support provided to women in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

METHODS: Women who attended the Medecins Sans Frontieres program for sexual violence in Brazzaville during the conflict were selected to evaluate the psychological consequences of rape and the late effect of post-rape psychological support. A total of 178 patients met the eligibility criteria: 1) Women aged more than 15 years; 2) raped by unknown person(s) wearing military clothes; 3) admitted to the program between the 1/1/2002 and the 30/4/2003; and 4) living in Brazzaville.

RESULTS: The initial diagnosis according to DSM criteria showed a predominance of anxious disorders (54.1%) and acute stress disorders (24.6%). One to two years after the initial psychological care, 64 women were evaluated using the Trauma Screening Questionnaire (TSQ), the Global Assessment of Functioning scale (GAF) and an assessment scale to address medico-psychological care in emergencies (EUMP). Two patients (3.1%) met the needed criteria for PTSD diagnosis from the TSQ. Among the 56 women evaluated using GAF both as pre and post-test, global functioning was significantly improved by initial post-rape support (50 women (89.3%) had extreme or medium impairment at first post-rape evaluation, and 16 (28.6%) after psychological care; p = 0.04). When interviewed one to two years later, the benefit was fully maintained (16 women (28.6%) presenting extreme or medium impairment).

CONCLUSION: We found the benefits of post-rape psychological support to be present and lasting in this conflict situation. However, we were unable to evaluate all women for the long-term impact, underscoring the difficulty of leading evaluation studies in unstable contexts. Future research is needed to validate these findings in other settings.