Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTG) Law and Legal Definition

Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is an anxiety disorder experienced by rape victims. The term "rape trauma syndrome" was first used in 1974 by Burgess & Holmstrom, in their article Rape Trauma Syndrome. It refers to a form of psychological trauma and post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). People with RTS show disruptions to normal physical, emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal characteristics. The term is used to describe the recurring pattern of emotional distress in rape victims. RTS encompasses the psychological, behavioral and physical reactions that are common to most sexual assault victims. These symptoms or reaction may appear immediately following the rape and may last for months or years after the rape.

Rape trauma syndrome is listed in the PTSD diagnostic category of the American Psychiatric Association's manual of recognized mental disorders as one of the crises that causes personal trauma [United States v. Carter, 22 M.J. 771, 773-774 (C.M.R. 1986)] Diagnostic and Statistical Mental Disorders § 309.81 (3d Ed. 1980) [hereinafter cited as DSM-III].

Expert testimony on RTS is presented both in civil and criminal cases. In recent years, admissibility of RTS as an evidence has been a matter of discussion in the state criminal courts. All courts do not admit RTS as evidence on the ground that it does not meet the Frye test for the admissibility of scientific evidence. However, other courts are of the opinion that RTS is a common reaction to sexual assault and admit it as evidence [United States v. Carter, 22 M.J. 771, 773-774 (C.M.R. 1986)].

Generally, rape trauma syndrome evidence is offered through the testimony of a treating psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor experienced in the treatment of rape victims. [United States v. Carter, 22 M.J. 771, 773-774 (C.M.R. 1986)]. Expert testimony on RTS is admissible in military cases.