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Man waking up from a bad dream

Coping With

In this series:
When Terror Strikes
Post-traumatic StressWhat Is It?
Traumatic Stress Will End!
Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress

Related topics:
Will All People Ever Love One Another?
When Someone You Love Dies

When Terror Strikes

"I've got a knife! Shut up, or I'll kill you!"

IT WAS a lovely summer afternoon, and 17-year-old Jane,* one of Jehovah's Witnesses, had been roller-skating in a public park in Virginia, U.S.A. Suddenly the park seemed deserted, and she decided to leave. As she sat near her family's minivan removing her skates, a stranger approached her. With the chilling words above, he demanded sex, grabbed Jane, and tried to shove her inside the minivan. She screamed as loud as she could, but that did not stop the attack.

Woman being attacked

"I felt so utterly helpless," Jane recalled later. "Like a bug versus a giant. But I kept screaming and struggling. Finally, I called out to God, 'Jehovah, please don't let this happen to me!'" That seemed to startle the attacker, who suddenly released her and fled the scene.

As the would-be rapist got into his car, Jane locked herself in her van, trembling. Grabbing the cell phone, she forced herself to be calm. She called the police and gave an accurate description of the suspect's car and its license number, which led to his arrest within minutes.

A Happy Ending?

Yes, but not immediately. Jane's ordeal had only begun. Although the police and newspapers praised her quick thinking and clearheaded response to the attack, after the initial shock wore off, Jane felt anything but clearheaded. "After a few weeks, I began to fall apart," she recounts. "My body was in a continual state of panic, which kept me from sleeping. After several weeks of this, I was unable to study or to focus mentally. I also had panic attacks. At school a classmate who looked a little like my attacker tapped me on the shoulder to ask the time, and I almost went to pieces."

She says: "I was so miserable. I lost contact with my friends, and the loneliness only added to the depression. I blamed myself for allowing the attack, and I grieved for the happy, trusting person I had been before it happened. I felt as if that person had died."

Jane was experiencing some of the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What is PTSD, and what can be done to help those who suffer from its devastating symptoms? The next article will answer these questions.

*  The name has been changed.

Appeared in Awake!  August 22, 2001

Picture Credit: Army scene: U.S. Signal Corps photo

Copyright 2001 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.