The Gender-Specific Terror of El Salvador and Guatemala: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Central American Refugee Women


Aron, Adrianne, Shawn Corne, Anthea Fursland, and Barbara Zelwer. 1991. “The Gender-Specific Terror of El Salvador and Guatemala: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Central American Refugee Women.” Women’s Studies International Forum 14 (1): 37–47. doi:10.1016/0277-5395(91)90082-S.

Authors: Adrianne Aron, Shawn Corne, Anthea Fursland, Barbara Zelwer


A taxonomy of three broad categories describes the forms of sexual abuse commonly found in El Salvador and Guatemala, where gender-specific political repression traumatizes people and gives rise to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD). If the psychological problems of Central American women refugees are to be addressed meaningfully, we must attend not only to the special characteristics of the assaults they have endured, but also to features of the pre-trauma environment in which they lived, and the post-trauma experience of exile. Of particular importance is the distinction between institutionalized and noninstitutionalized sexual assault; that is, assault sanctioned by the government as a normative act of social control versus assault which is considered deviant, criminal, and punishable by law. A case study of a Central American refugee woman suffering from PSTD is presented, to illustrate the psychological symptoms attendant to trauma and the use of sexual abuse as a form of political repression.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Health, PTSD, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: El Salvador, Guatemala

Year: 1991

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