Mental health consequences of sexual assaults

Recollections of a traumatic experience do not go away easily. The trauma of being sexually ill-treated or raped can leave a person shattered and scarred for the rest of their life. Sexual violation refers to an activity during which a sexual contact is attempted or established without the consent of the victim, either through violence or intimidation. Most of the times, the culprit is known to the victim. 

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), one American suffers sexual assault every 98 seconds. Moreover, out of every American women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape, and in 33 men has suffered attempted or completed rape. 

Sexual abuse manifests as mental disorders 

Sexual abuse not only causes physical injury, it has deep-seated roots in one’s psychological health as well. Listed below are some of the mental health manifestations of sexual harassment. 

  • DepressionThe loss of autonomy of one’s body to sexual assault can lead to feelings of shock, distress, and dejectedness. One might feel an extreme loss of self-worth and this can translate into depression, which could be fleeting or chronic. 
  • Anxiety: Survivors of sexual assault may struggle intense anxiety after their body has been violated. More often than not, they struggle with anxiety fearing that the attack might happen again. Some survivors may develop agoraphobia and may fear leaving their homes. Themight also struggle with panic attacks and other symptoms of anxiety like slurred speech and emotional numbness. Anxiety could result from triggers which are the stimuli that bring back the memories of an abuse. It could be subsequent abuse, violence, seeing the abuser again, discussions around that abuse, etc. Triggers lead to flashbacks which result in anxiety. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)The trauma of a sexual assault may lead to increased chances of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) characterized by bouts of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. There might be intense flashbacks and a person might lose track of their surroundings. Some survivors might also suffer from complex-PTSD and fear abandonment. 
  • Personality disruptionsSexual abuse might result in personality disruptions. The behavioral patterns associated with the personality disorder could be an adaptation to the abuse. 
  • Attachment disruptionsAn adult who has been abused during childhood might find it increasingly difficult to form close bonds, struggle with intimacy issues, or on the other hand, might be eager to form close associations too soon. 
  • Suicidal ideation: Contemplation of suicide or decision to end life is a common feature seen among victims of sexual assault. Psychiatrists claim that most victims of sexual harassment who seek professional help tend to show suicidal behaviors. Research shows women who had experienced frequent unwanted touching self-reported to have attempted to end their lives compared to those who had not undergone such experiences. 

Consequences of sexual violence 

Sexual violence can cause lifelong traumatic effects on the victim, their families, and the community. The long-lasting consequences of sexual violence can be sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), chronic pain, gynecological disorders, migraines, genital injuries, cervical cancer, etc. The psychological ramifications of sexual assault can be disgrace, guilt, shock, renunciation, fear, and debilitating mental health disorders. Chronic psychological disturbances might manifest as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. 

A sexually traumatized individual might also become a recluse, avoid being into relationships or physical intimacy, and face stigmatization and discrimination from family and friends. Moreover, the victim might be predisposed to risky behaviors such as experimenting with alcohol and drug use, getting into unhealthy sexual practices, and practicing criminal activities. 

Seeking treatment for mental health disorders 

Describing the trauma of sexual assault can be difficult. These experiences push the human mind to its limits, sometimes continuing to burden the victim with a chronic psychological distress until substance abuse feels like the only escape, which might lead to a vicious circle of addiction and mental health problems. Yet there is a better way. Not by escaping but living. Live because that is the only way to truly enjoy life. For sexual assault victims, living without fear is a painful but brave choice. 

At 24/7 Mental Health Helplinewe empathize with people who have gone through some trauma and are struggling to regain their strength and confidence. In addition to assisting victims find mental health help, our 24/7 mental health helpline offers help to rehabilitate survivors of abuse and trauma. We help sexual trauma patients to access treatment programs customized to help survivors learn self-calming techniques in a soothing environment. To know more about 24/7 mental health rehabilitation helpline center, call our 24/7 mental health treatment helpline (8556538178 and speak to a representative. You can also chat online to get more information about behavioral and mental health problems and treatments available.