By- Yolmar Chacon
#Sexual Assault Awareness
Sexual Assault Awareness month began in April 2001 and was founded by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Sexual assault refers to sexual behavior that occurs without the clear consent of the victim. This includes:
- Attempted rape
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
- Penetration of the victim’s body (rape)
It’s important to note that force does not just mean physical force, but includes manipulation, coercion, threats, and situations where a person is unable to give consent. When something as traumatic as sexual assault occurs, the effects that follow can include a whirlwind of mixed emotions and consequently long-lasting mental health problems.
Some of the most common psychological effects sexual assault victims experience include:
- Feelings of shame or guilt
- Social isolation or withdrawal
- Problems sleeping
- Eating disorders
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoidance of certain places/things related to the event
- Anxiety disorders
- Depression and suicidal thoughts or actions
Unfortunately, most victims will experience these effects in some capacity. While many common psychological effects of sexual assault include feelings of shame, guilt, or fear, these emotions may be more fleeting and get better as time goes on. In many other cases, the effects are more severe. One study found that victims of sexual assault were significantly more likely to experience anxiety disorders, eating disorders, PTSD, sleep disorders, depression, and suicidal attempts.
Having a previous history of being a victim and negative reactions from family, friends, and professionals worsen the impact of sexual violence on mental health. Because sexual trauma can have such a serious impact on mental health, it’s important that services and supports consider and address the trauma that many individuals have experienced.
Sexual violence is never the victim’s fault.