Sexual Abuse and Mental Health
WHAT IS SEXUAL ABUSE?
The textbook definition of sexual abuse means that sexual behaviors are occurring without
consent of one of the people involved. After effects of undergoing the forced behaviors of
someone upon yourself it can cause permanent damages and fears that are subdued for long
periods of time within the victim. Effects include flashbacks of the assault, shame, isolation,
guilt, as well as PTSD, which are long term effects hindering the progression of the victim in
their life. The majority of media and protests focuses only on rape or physically violent sexual
assault yet sexual assault also encompasses other behaviors such as coercion, reproductive
control, and unwanted sexual contact.
MENTAL HEALTH EFFECTS
Oftentimes, when a victim has been assaulted after effects vary based on a number of different factors. It depends on when it happened, who did it, and why. Sexual assault that has been ongoing and done by the same person causes severe PTSD as well as the victim feeling
like they’re being used, and worthless. Sexual assault by a friend can cause to victim to feel and immense amount of betrayal and develop trust issues with any other friendships or
relationships in the future. Not only does this make it hard for the victim, but the people who are trying to be friends with them as well can often feel like the mutual feelings of compassion and happiness are not being reciprocated, leading to negative feelings all around. Sexual assault by a stranger can cause things like fear to go out in public, feeling like you’re constantly being watched and negative effects causing you to neglect your social life.
As unfortunate as it is, sexual assault within the family also occurs, and victims report being scared to come home, and cutting ties with their family. However, because it is within the family reporting this kind of sexual assault can be hard for the victim, usually because of denial and not being able to believe that their family member could do something that could hurt them in this way. No matter how severe sexual assault is, if you feel uncomfortable with the way that someone is touching you and feel as if you’re put in a dangerous situation it’s really important to get help, otherwise the repercussions are often harder than the current situation. People often misjudge the effects of sexual assault on a person’s mental health, but it’s important to talk to people who you feel safe around and protect yourself so you’re never put in that situation again.