Effects of Sexual Assault and Abuse

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." James Baldwin

Sexual assault and sexual abuse are sexual activities involving a person who does not or cannot consent.

Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse are serious and devastating crimes. Sexual violence often causes emotional scars that can last for years, and fears that, if not addressed, can last for a life time. For many survivors rape and sexual abuse are a defining moment that divides their life, life before the abuse and life after.

The aftermath of any kind of sexual abuse is a challenging and difficult journey. The violence does not end with the Sexual Assualt or Sexual Abuse, the insults and the humiliation. Sexual violence keeps repeating itself in a time that seems endless. It can be hard to understand how much pain remains after a rape, mostly because the trauma imprisons you from the inside and it's often misunderstood. Sexual assault and sexual abuse survivors are left feeling vulnerable, angry, betrayed, frightened, violated, dirty, embarrassed and powerless.

Yet, there is the tendency to think that sexual violence needs to be hidden, particularly when it take place within familiar doors. A large percent of survivors are haunted by feelings of guilt, self-blame and shame, mostly due to the fact that in our society the common response to rape and sexual abuse is still embarrassment. Sadly, despite their epidemic proportions, sexual assault and sexual abuse are still considered unspeakable crimes, something people prefer not to acknowledge. This unspoken statement suggests that sexual abuse survivors should not speak about their experiences and spare others from an unpleasant issue, which as a result contributes enormously in increasing their isolation and pain. People who are mugged and robbed don't feel ashamed and no one treats them differently, but when the crime is linked to sexual violence suddenly everything changes.

The possible consequences of a sexual assault are uncountable. Each person reacts in a unique way, sexual abuse survivors might experience some, none, or even all of the following:

Drug Addiction
Eating Disorders
Fear of Intimacy
Inability to Sleep
Rape Trauma Syndrome
Suicidal Thoughts
Self Injury
And many others.

The denial of chronic feelings, such as depression or frustration, it's very dangerous and can leave survivors in a perpetual state of needing to live a lie. As a result, often survivors feel cut off from the world and negatively affected in the way they interact with others. If survivors are too afraid or ashamed to face their true feelings and keep maintaining a false image, they will not be able to deal with their grief.

Seeking professional help can be one of the hardest things to do. Survivors may be scared that counseling will open a can of worms they don't want to see unopened, however, pain is a sign that something needs attention; counseling is a gift survivors can give to themselves - an expression of self caring. Being haunted by the past has a serious impact on a person’s emotional and physical well being. Therapy can help survivors of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse to understand, accept and overcome.

Please remember that asking for help is a sign of strength and not of weakness. It takes a lot of courage.

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