Public Health and Primary CareCOMMENTARY

Neurobiology of Sexual Assault and Osteopathic Considerations for Trauma-Informed Care and Practice

Kristen M. Cuevas, OMS II; Jane Balbo, DO; Krista Duval, DO; and Elizabeth A. Beverly, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: November 16, 2017

Accepted: November 29, 2017

Published: December 11, 2017

J Osteopath Med; 118(2): e2-e10

Sexual assault is a traumatic event with potentially devastating lifelong effects on physical and emotional health. Sexual assault is associated with gastrointestinal, neurologic, and reproductive symptoms, as well as obesity, diabetes, and chronic pain. With 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experiencing some form of unwanted sexual violence in their lifetime, sexual assault is a significant public health problem that necessitates attention in the medical community. This review discusses relevant literature on the neurobiologic changes that occur as a consequence of sexual assault, such as how the brain responds during a traumatic experience and the impact of trauma on memory. Osteopathic considerations for trauma-informed care and practice and how all physicians can better serve patients with a history of sexual assault are also discussed.

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