Morgan made it clear that there’s a lot he doesn’t understand about PTSD.
In a series of tweets, Morgan asserted that PTSD was something only “soldiers returning from battlefields” suffer from and dismissed claims that Madonna and Lady Gaga had been raped because neither of them had filed claims with police. In reality, PTSD is in fact a condition that can arise “after experiencing a traumatic event such as sexual assault,” according to the National Center for PTSD.
PTSD was first recognised in first world war soldiers, though often as a mysterious, poorly managed condition referred to as “shell shock”. Many were discharged from the military in severe psychiatric distress. It was only in 1980, after the traumas of the Vietnam war, that the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) in the US recognised PTSD as a diagnosable entity, defined by highly distressing symptoms such as intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, persistent fear and dread, anger, guilt, shame, sleeplessness and many physical manifestations of anxiety such as increased heart rate, sweating, dizziness, nausea and diarrhoea.
The World Health Organisation states that the prevalence of sexual violence faced by women and the correspondingly high rate of PTSD renders women the largest single group of people affected by this disorder. In England and Wales one in five women aged 16-59 have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16; and 31% of women aged 18-24 report having experienced sexual abuse in childhood. It is suspected that these figures might be an under-representation due to a lack of reporting fed by our culture of disbelief – a culture Morgan illustrated and fed with his tweets. By extension, many women may not be seeking help for symptoms of PTSD.
The intersection of sexual assault and PTSD cannot be refuted by anyone. Striking gender differences are found in the patterns of mental health problems across the world, including, as we know, in the prevalence of PTSD, but no one benefits if sexual trauma is somehow banished from our perceived parameters of “proper” PTSD. It is thought that 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales every year. Painting PTSD as something only military veterans live with is a callous dismissal of the pain many of these men, and by extension their families, are likely to be living with.