A Crisis Theory Perspective on Rape

  • Ellen L. Bassuk


With the growth of the feminist movement, increasing attention and concern has been focused on the prevalence of the crime of rape and on the nature of the psychological responses of the victim. Rape is no longer viewed as a crime of passion with the victim viewed as complicit but is now seen as a crime of violence inevitably causing an emotional crisis in the life of the assaulted individual. As in other crisis states, such as those precipitated by the death of a loved one or a severe accident or illness, the rape crisis produces a complex set of emotions and symptoms that unfold in a predictable sequence within a specified period of time. Issues unique to the crisis must be resolved and integrated, or the victim will have difficulty returning to her previous level of functioning. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a crisis theory perspective for understanding the spectrum of feelings manifested by the rape victim over the months following the assault. The theme developed is that the crisis response to rape evolves in a predictable sequence similar to other crises, but with a special content specific to rape, which I call the rape work.


Rape Victim Psychiatric Emergency Service Crisis Response Predictable Sequence Beth Israel Hospital 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aguilera, D., & Messick, J. Crisis intervention. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Company, 1974.Google Scholar
  2. Bassuk, E., Savitz, R., McCombie, S., et al. Organizing a rape crisis program in a general hospital. Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, 1975,30, 486–490.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Brandon, S. Crisis theory and possibilities of therapeutic intervention. British Journal of Psychiatry, 1970, 117, 627–633.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brownmiller, S. Against our will: Men, women and rape. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975.Google Scholar
  5. Burgess, A. W., & Holmstrom, L. L. Rape trauma syndrome. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1974, 132(9), 981–986.Google Scholar
  6. Caplan, G. Principles of preventive psychiatry. New York: Basic Books, 1964.Google Scholar
  7. Horowitz, M. Stress response syndromes. New York: Jason Aronson, 1976.Google Scholar
  8. Lindemann, E. Symptomatology and management of acute grief. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1944, 101, 141–148.Google Scholar
  9. McCombie, S., Bassuk, E., Savitz, R., & Pell, S. Development of a medical center rape crisis intervention program. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1976, 233(4), 418–421.Google Scholar
  10. Notman, M., & Nadelson, C. The rape victim: Psychodynamic considerations. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1976, 133(4), 408–412.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Parad, H. (Ed.). Crisis intervention: Selected readings. New York: Family Service Association of America, 1965.Google Scholar
  12. Rado, S. Pathodynamics and treatment of traumatic war neuroses (traumatophobia). Psychosomatic Medicine, 1948, 4, 362–368.Google Scholar
  13. Sheehy, G. Passages. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1974.Google Scholar
  14. Sifneos, P. A concept of emotional crisis. Mental Hygiene, 1960, 44, 169–180.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Sifneos, P. Two different kinds of psychotherapy of short duration. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1967, 123, 1069–1074.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Sutherland, S., & Scherl, D. Patterns of response among victims of rape. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1970, 40, 503–511.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Symonds, M. The psychological patterns of response of victims to rape. Presented at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and American Academy for Professional Law Enforcement, New York, 1975, pp. 1–18.Google Scholar
  18. Tyhurst, J. S. Individual reactions to community disaster: The natural history of psychiatric phenomena. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1951, 107, 764–769.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Weiss, R. J., & Payson, H. E. Gross stress reaction, I. In A. M. Friedman, & M. I. Kaplan, (Eds.). Comprehensive textbook of psychiatry. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1967, pp. 1027–1031.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen L. Bassuk
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Beth Israel HospitalBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations