Sexual Assault Trauma Recovery
The prevalence of sexual assault in the United States is nothing short of shocking. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual assault can happen to anyone – women, men, and children. It is considered sexual activity between two or more individuals where the person has not provided consent, and the person is coerced, forced, or threatened with harm.
SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ABUSE
Sexual assault is a crime that has become an epidemic problem. Sexual assault can be an extremely stressful, frightening event and severely disrupt survivors’ lifestyles and coping patterns. Sexual abuse is common, particularly for women and girls. Ninety percent of all rapes are committed against women. One in six women in America has experienced rape. One in five girls and one in 20 boys experience childhood sexual abuse. Sexual assault crimes include:
· Rape: Forced sexual contact with someone who does not or cannot consent, who does not want it, is intoxicated, or is not legally old enough to provide verbal consent. Date rape is sexual assault that arises between people with an established relationship.
· Non-Consensual Sexual Contact: Sexual contact that is undesired and unwanted sexual touching. Attempted rape can also fall into this category.
MALE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
The American culture in the United States makes it challenging for men who experience sexual assault to report the crime. They face challenging stigma as our culture promotes the social construct and stereotype that men always want sex.
When men report sexual assault, they are perceived as victim-blaming, especially when they accuse a woman of sexual abuse.
Due to stigma, male survivors can be reluctant to label their experiences as rape or abuse. The unwillingness to disclose can prevent men from obtaining therapy. Substance use or self-harm is often resorted to when not seeking help with trauma.
SEXUAL ASSAULT IN LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY
The rates of sexual assault for LGBTQUI+ individuals are comparable or higher than the rates for heterosexual people. Additionally, the LGBTQ+ community has hate crimes that account for sexual assaults. The lifetime prevalence rates for cisgender women for rape:
46% for bisexual women.
13% for lesbians.
17% for heterosexual women.
Unfortunately, rape statistics among cisgender men are limited. The lifetime prevalence rates for sexual assaults other than rape:
47% for bisexual men.
40% for gay men.
21% of heterosexual men.
Transgender persons will experience 64% sexual assault in their lifetimes, including transgender individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault. According to a 2011 survey, 12% of transgender youth stated friends, students, teachers, coaches had sexually assaulted them at school.
RACE & ETHNICITY AND SEXUAL ASSAULT
According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), the United States lifetime prevalence rates for rape include:
9.5% of Asian or Pacific Islander women
15.0% of Hispanic women
19.9% of white women
20.7% of black women
SYMPTOMS OF PTSD AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT
Changes in Thoughts and Feelings
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES RESULTING FROM SEXUAL ASSAULT
After a sexual assault, survivors may feel dissociation and that their bodies are not their own. Survivors often report fear, shame, dread, panic, and guilt and blame themselves for the assault. Due to the trauma and negative emotions linked to sexual abuse. Survivors of sexual abuse may develop:
· Depression: The loss of bodily autonomy is often challenging, developing feelings of hopelessness or despair. It decreases the sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence. Depression symptoms may be mild or intense, and long-lasting.
· Anxiety: The loss of bodily autonomy can cause severe anxiety and the fear that the assault could happen again. Anxiety panic attacks may develop in some individuals. Agoraphobia may develop whereby the individual becomes afraid to leave their homes.
· Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD): Someone who survived sexual assault may experience intense memories of the abuse, including nightmares and flashbacks that cause a survivor to lose track of surroundings. Complex PTSD may develop, displaying a chronic fear of abandonment or personality changes.
· Personality Disruptions: Borderline personality may result due to the assault. The behavior linked with personality disruptions could be an adaption to abuse.
· Attachment Issues: Individuals may develop insecure attachments and find it challenging to form healthy attachments. Likewise, they could struggle with intimacy or be too eager to form close attachments.
· Substance Use & Addiction: Research studies suggest a sexual assault and abuse survivors are 26 times more likely to use substances. Substance use and alcohol can be maladaptive to numb the pain of sexual assault.
BENEFITS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT THERAPY
Therapy offers an inclusive, safe space that is non-judgmental, non-shaming, and non-blaming to provide healing. You are not alone. Psychotherapists cannot disclose one’s personal information to others. Therapy is a confidential place where one can find support without judgment. I help you deal with the trauma, begin your healing journey, and recover your life.
RAINN NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT HOTLINE
Provides access to support from trained staff via phone and online chat options, the 24/7 who can help direct you to a local health facility with experience caring for survivors of sexual assault and resources for healing, recovery, and support.
NATIONAL SEXUAL VIOLENCE RESOURCE CENTER
LGBT NATIONAL HOTLINE
Provides one-to-one confidential support and a non-judgmental safe space for anyone to discuss coming out, gender or sexual identity, relationship concerns, bullying, and self-harm.
Marital rape. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/public-policy/sexual-assault-issues/marital-rape
NISVCS: An overview of 2010 findings on victimization by sexual orientation. (n.d.) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/cdc_nisvs_victimization_final-a.pdf
Paulk, L. (2014, April 30). Sexual Assault in the LGBT Community. Retrieved from http://www.nclrights.org/sexual-assault-in-the-lgbt-community
Rape and sexual assault. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=317
Reporting rates. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates
Sexual Assault & LGBT Survivors. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://sapac.umich.edu/article/58
Sexual Assault: The Numbers | Responding to Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault. (2014, June 1). Retrieved from http://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html
Sexual harassment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm
Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma (1st ed.). New York, NY: Viking.
Who are the victims? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims
Women of color and sexual assault. (n.d.) Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Retrieved from https://endsexualviolencect.org/resources/get-the-facts/woc-stats