Common mental health problems 57
Abuse is one kind of trauma
Girls with disabilities are especially at risk for abuse or violence from someone in
their family. Abuse happens if anyone touches a girl in a sexual way, or if a father,
brother, cousin, or caretaker forces a girl to have sex. Abuse can
also involve hitting or hurting a girl, humiliating her, caring for
her cruelly, or refusing to care for her. Abuse is a kind of trauma
that causes great harm to a girl’s mental health. If a woman was
abused or hurt as a child, it can affect her for many years.
Many women with disabilities who continue being
abused as adults don’t complain because they believe
they do not deserve to be treated well. For more
information about abuse, see Chapter 14.
REACTIONS TO TRAUMA
If you have experienced trauma, you may have many different reactions, such as:
• going over the trauma again and again in your mind. While
you are awake, you may keep remembering the terrible things
that happened. At night, you may dream
about them or be unable to
fall asleep because you are
thinking about them.
• feeling numb or feeling
emotions less strongly
than before. You may avoid
people or places that remind you of the trauma.
• becoming very watchful. If you are constantly looking out for
danger, you may have difficulty relaxing and sleeping. You may
overreact when startled.
• feeling very angry or full of shame about what happened. If
you have survived a trauma where others died or were seriously
injured, you may feel guilty that others suffered more than you did.
• feeling separate and distant from other people.
• having outbursts of strange or violent behavior, in which you
are confused about where you are.
Many of these signs are normal responses to a difficult situation. For
example, it is normal to feel angry that a trauma has happened, or to be
watchful if the situation is still dangerous. But you need help if the signs
are so severe that you cannot carry out daily activities, or if the signs start
months after the trauma has happened.
to trauma may
also feel anxious
or depressed, or
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007