Trigger Warning: This article focuses primarily on the topic of sexual assault and consent, please read at your own discretion.
Did you know that any sexual invitation or act that wasn’t accepted by the other person is treated and called Sexual Harassment? In other words, if a person didn’t give you consent, it is implied as crossing and transcending all personal boundaries. Too many people go even further with their actions, to the extent they feel entitled to one’s body and commit Sexual Assault. It can and is affecting women and men, both mentally and physically. Manifestations of sexual abuse impact its victims with long-term problems that they have to learn to live with. Years can go by, and they still might find it hard to recover and live a healthy life. Consequences of violence and sexual abuse aren’t broadly discussed, and we need to be educated about it as “97% of women had been sexually harassed“. Here are some of the ways in which sexual assault changes a victim’s life and body.
Poor Mental Health
Karestan Koenen, in her study, found out that 50% of sexual assault victims had an increased risk for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The victims may be struggling to do daily chores like cleaning and cooking, perform tasks such as taking a shower, eating, brushing teeth, leaving the bed. They might struggle or find it hard to talk to other people, leave their house, reach out for help, work or study, concentrate, find joy in the things that used to be enjoyable. There is a high chance of decreased confidence, self-love, and self-care.
Another study showed that 60% of the sexual assault victims experience ‘post-assault washing behaviour‘ due to feeling disgusting, dirty and polluted.
Oversharing or Undersharing Their Experience
In some cases, as a response to trauma, sexual assault victims overshare their experience. It can be due to them being gaslighted; their experience and feelings were invalidated or called attention seekers. This is completely normal as they just seek comfort, support, and the need to be believed in.
There is also another group of people who minimize the seriousness of their trauma and avoid any conversations about it. If victims have been told, “you deserved it; you asked for it; what were you wearing; were you drunk”, they can start to believe in it and convince themselves that they deserved it. Now the victim of sexual assault is also the victim of her own thoughts. She’s frightened to speak up and seek help, “because unacknowledged victims are less likely to disclose and may describe their experience to others as a more benign event when they do disclose“
Poor General Health
Depending on the severity of a sexual assault, some female rape/forced intercourse can have explicit medical issues like “chronic pelvic pain, premenstrual disturbance, other gynaecologic symptoms, fibromyalgia, headache, other pain syndromes, and gastrointestinal disorders.”
Sexual assault victims are more linear to perceive their health and lifestyle as unhealthy, toxic, innutritious. Research has shown that traumatic experiences influence people to make unhealthy decisions such as: binge eat, abuse alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, lack of physical activity. Unhealthy lifestyle and poor choices lead them to have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol level and being obese. Victims have to learn how to live with trauma; they also need to learn how to live life and relearn how to take care of themselves.
Victims with a background of sexual assault have a high risk of developing sexual problems. They might find it hard to trust people, get close with others, be exposed, naked, making them anxious and nervous. Some victims can experience panic attacks during intercourse; some can be triggered by smell, sound, or physical touch. N.N. Sarkar & Rina Sarkar are pointing out that ‘for a considerable group of victims there is a chance of diminished want, need and desire in sexual activities for at least one year post assault‘. It’s extremely hard for victims to view sex as a pleasurable act as their trauma distorted the image of it.
Nightmares are highly linked to PTSD and Sleep Disorders. Both of them are triggered and caused by trauma. They don’t come out of anywhere. Episodes of the trauma keep coming back at night; they don’t let a person relax and have a good quality sleep. Their subconscious is frightened and terrified; the victim’s sense of security is gone; they feel vulnerable, small, shattered, damaged and trapped. Because individuals are constantly hyperalert to protect themselves against real or imagined threats, chronic hypervigilance ensues, leading to insomnia symptoms.
Here are some symptoms of Insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Regular and constant awakening at night
- Feeling tired after sleep
- Feeling tired and irritated throughout the day
- Difficulty to concentrate
Please contact a GP if you suspect that you have it.
I’m sure I didn’t cover all the problems, and life struggles that victims have to deal with every day. It’s surprising that the media and society don’t talk or aren’t aware of the actual problems that people have to deal with. There are numerous instances when people are left alone to deal with their trauma. And it shouldn’t be the case. When a person is ill or breaks a leg, they receive all the attention and help that’s out there. They are being cared for and looked after. Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health issues, a person has to find their own way to heal.
Victims Support line 08081689111
Rape Crisis national freephone helpline 08088029999 (12-2.30PM and 7-9.30PM every day of the year)
Sexual abuse support – Support for victims-survivors of sexual abuse (campaign.gov.uk)
Help after rape and sexual assault – NHS (www.nhs.uk)