PTSD is a response by normal persons to an abnormal situation. An exceptional threat or an acute life-threatening experience can push almost anyone into deep despair. The only difference between persons who develop PTSD and those who do not is the matter of how the traumatising experience can be coped with, and epidemiological research shows that about one third of the European population is confronted with a traumatic event which may lead to traumatisation at least once in life. Yet not every person affected develops a symptom complex which requires treatment. It is currently presumed that this occurs in about 20 to 30% of cases. There are certain factors though which encourage the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. For instance, if there is a lack of support directly after the event, if the victim is in bad physical condition, the social environment is unfavourable, or traumatisation has occurred previously, the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder increases.
Persons affected by sexualised violence – mostly women and girls – develop post-traumatic stress disorder particularly frequently. A particularly large number of risk factors are present in such cases. It is assumed in several studies that up to 80% of these victims develop post-traumatic symptoms.