The Consequences of Sexual Assault… an Intrusive Suffering
The fact of being sexually assaulted, recently or in the past, results in reactions and consequences which can vary in intensity from one person to another. These different manifestations can happen over a more or less long period of time. Many are common no matter the age of the victim and can have major impacts on her future.
A victim can go back to her normal life and feel good for a long period of time. All of a sudden, certain events of daily life can trigger memories related to the trauma of sexual assault and provoke the reappearance of one or more consequences. It can even provoke a period of disorganization.
The following consequences are NORMAL and can have an impact on their daily lives. Victims may experience…
- PHYSICAL problems : headaches, fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy, injuries, pain, digestive problems, trembling, hypertension, respiratory difficulties, low energy, and general weakening of the immune system.
- PSYCHOLOGICAL problems (post-traumatic syndrome) : sadness, isolation, nervousness, anxiety, discouragement, depression, distress, confusion about their feelings, suicidal thoughts, different fears (of the perpetrator, reprisals, reaction of their loved ones, etc.), shame, guilt, emotional instability, hypervigilance, behavioural problems, self-mutilation, feeling powerless, anger, rage, low self-esteem, feelings of betrayal, memory loss, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, loss of autonomy, being overprotective of their children, loss of enjoyment of life, lower tolerance threshold in situations perceived as a threat to their safety and their physical integrity.
- RELATIONSHIP problems : with family members, friends, colleagues, spouse, difficulty trusting others, a feeling of loneliness, non-participation in recreational and social activities, fear of rejection.
- SEXUAL problems : fear of intimacy, lessening of desire or becoming overly sexual, pain during intercourse, disgust with sexual matters.
- EATING disorders : anorexia, bulimia.
- DEPENDENCY problems : alcohol, drugs, gambling, medication.
- SPIRITUAL or EXISTENTIAL problems : shift in values, faith, loss of reference points, feelings of existential emptiness.
- ECONOMICAL and SOCIAL problems : loss of income, medication costs, difficulty at work, moving.
- ANXIETY and FRUSTRATION : caused by medical and judicial proceedings.
In addition, some consequences are more specific to children and teenagers, such as :
- developmental difficulties;
- concentration difficulties, learning difficulties;
- chronic enuresis (bed-wetting);
- inadequate sexual behaviour for their age and development level;
- behavioural problems, running away, delinquency, prostitution;
- withdrawal from the family unit, placement in foster care or in youth protection, loss of parental support;
Talking about it and seeking assistance as soon as possible after the traumatic event can lessen the intensity of the consequences and help break the isolation.