Dear Piers Morgan: Yes, sexual assault victims can suffer from PTSD

Dear Piers Morgan,

We get it: mansplaining is kind of your schtick. Already this year you questioned Jennifer Aniston’s thoughts on tabloid culture and body image. Then you ‘educated’ Beyoncé on why her “playing the race card” in Lemonade “smacks of shameless exploitation”. 

With that track record, we shouldn’t have been surprised that you felt it necessary to school Lady Gaga on the appropriate response to sexual assault. The singer recently and bravely spoke about how being raped 20 years ago caused her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that she still deals with today. Instead of responding with empathy and humanity – or not responding at all, because, really, what business is it of yours? – you instead said “only soldiers returning from battlefields” can develop PTSD and “it angers me when celebrities start claiming ‘PTSD’ about everything to promote themselves”.

Worse, you suggested Gaga’s rape never even happened, tweeting that she and Madonna “have both made ALLEGATIONS of rape many years after the event. No police complaint, no charges, no court case”.

This line of thinking is ignorant – and sadly, rampant. Many victims suffer from PTSD decades after their rapes. Some points of enlightenment we’d like to share:

Rape doesn’t only happen when a woman marches down to the police station to report it. Not all sexual assaults are reported to police. A woman who has just been brutalised and violated in the most devastatingly intimate way may feel embarrassed or fear she won’t be believed. She might blame herself for not being able to stop the attack. Or she just might realise that she lives in a society where victims of rape are told their choice to wear a short skirt or have a few drinks means they deserve to be raped.

Sexual assault and the aftermath are incredibly scarring and often lead to PTSD.  Research shows that rape survivors often have more severe PTSD, and a harder time overcoming it, than war veterans. While between 10 and 20 percent of war vets develop the disorder, about 70 percent of sexual assault victims experience moderate or severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime.

Acknowledging what is a very real phenomenon among those who’ve been sexually assaulted doesn’t discount the severity of what members of the military have been through in any way. More should be done to help and support all PTSD suffers, whether their distress stems from a war fought on foreign soil or one waged on their own body. 

Far from “promoting” herself, Gaga is shattering the stigma of both rape and mental illness. Her words and actions may give hope to other women who feel lost, alone and silenced by their sexual assaults and PTSD.   

Following your comments on Twitter, Gaga agreed to sit down and discuss these issues with you in an interview. We hope you listen. 


Women’s Health


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