This week I will be discussing the effects that sexual assault can have on the victim such as mental health issues like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse.
Sexual assault is a traumatic experience, in which the victim feels the loss of control over their body during the assault. This can lead to PTSD and excessive drinking. In the article, Social Reactions to Sexual Assault Disclosure and Problem Drinking: Mediating Effects of Perceived Control and PTSD Liana Peter-Hagene and Sarah Ullman depict the relationship between social reactions after the assault occurs and the product of symptoms associated with PTSD and excessive drinking. They state that “social and psychological variables may intervene after the sexual assault to either ameliorate or exacerbate these negative effects.” They go on further to explain that positive or negative social interactions correlate with how the victim copes whether or not they self-blame themselves. Throughout the article, they explain that when trying to control the victim’s choices and overprotecting them can make them feel like they are not in control of their own recovery which can increase the symptoms to PTSD and increase the need to drink to cope with the symptoms. Therefore, they concluded that the lack of control can lead to symptoms of PTSD which has a domino effect to problematic drinking in order to cope.
There are many other different health consequences that occur after a sexual assault besides PTSD, and those include anxiety, shock, depression, rape trauma syndrome, etc. Rape trauma syndrome refers to the “cluster of emotional responses to the extreme stress experienced by the victim during the sexual assault.” These can consist of feelings of hopelessness, loss of control, anger and guilt, as well as substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.
Victims may also experience disturbed sleep consisting of recurring nightmares or intrusive memories of the event, loss of self-esteem, social withdrawal, and behavior and eating disorders. Studies suggest that 33% of women who have experienced some sort of sexual abuse showed signs of a psychiatric disorder.
Sexual assault is a serious matter that encompasses more than just the crime. There are many effects that can haunt the victim for the rest of their lives. I strongly encourage anyone who has gone through this to seek help because this is something that you do not want to go through alone. Therefore if you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault watch for signs of these mental health issues and utilize the resources that I mentioned in my last post (the aurora center). They are there to help you and are trained to help those who have undergone such an assault. Do not be afraid to ask for help, because it is not your fault and you should never blame yourself. There are there to help you in your recovery process.