Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for sexual assault


In my thirty-two years of treating recovering female addicts, I have observed that 75% had a history of sexual abuse. These victims feel dirty, think of themselves as unlovable, and may experience some form of sexual dysfunction, ranging from lack of sexual desire to compulsive sexuality. The younger and more chronic the sexual abuse, the more fragmented and fragile is the victim's personality structure. Using eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), the therapist is able to guide the client through these painful memories. Thoughts and feelings of worthlessness and powerlessness are replaced by those of worth and dignity. The victim stance is replaced by healthy self-awareness and stability. In this chapter we are going to explore the complex model of EMDR. It is a phase-oriented approach to therapy based on principles and protocols designed to move the recipient of treatment through a process that is extremely prescriptive, and empowering. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a rapid, safe, and effective psychotherapeutic modality when used in the treatment of sexual assault and other trauma-induced pathologies. It was discovered in 1987 by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., while she was researching ways to reduce stress. Dr. Shapiro noticed that after rapid eye movements a disturbing event in her own life was no longer as disturbing. She believed she had tapped into a natural healing process much like the body's attempt to heal a wound. It was initially named eye movement desensitization. After further research. Dr. Shapiro published the first study addressing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder found in combat veterans and rape victims. This study revealed that after only three to five sessions the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (hypervigilance, flashbacks, and nightmares) were extinguished.


Book Section




Diane Clayton

Original Work Citation

Clayton, D. (2011). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for sexual assault. In T. Bryant-Davis (Ed), Surviving sexual violence: A guide to recovery and empowerment (pp. 129-141). Lanham, M: Rowman & Littlefield



“Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for sexual assault,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 28, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/22158.

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