Effects of Sexual Violence

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Effects of Sexual Violence

The most immediate person affected by sexual violence is the victim/survivor, but the effects of sexual violence also go far beyond individual survivors, impacting their closest relationships as well as impacting communities and our society at large.

Impact on the survivor

Each survivor reacts to sexual violence in their own unique way. Personal style, culture, and context of the survivor’s life may affect these reactions. Some express their emotions while others prefer to keep their feelings inside. Some may tell others right away what happened, others will wait weeks, months, or even years before discussing the assault, if they ever choose to do so. It is important to respect each person’s choices and style of coping with this traumatic event. Whether an assault was completed or attempted, and regardless of whether it happened recently or many years ago, it may impact daily functioning. A wide range of reactions can impact victims. Some common emotional, psychological and physical reactions follow.

  • Guilt, shame, self-blame

  • Embarrassment

  • Fear, distrust

  • Sadness

  • Vulnerability

  • Isolation

  • Nightmares

  • Flashbacks

  • Depression

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns

  • Increased startle response

  • Concerns about physical safety

  • Lack of control

  • Anger

  • Numbness

  • Confusion

  • Shock, disbelief

  • Denial

  • Anxiety

  • Eating disorders

  • Substance use or abuse

  • Phobias

  • Low self esteem

Concerns about pregnancy or contracting an STI or HIV

Some health outcomes can be fatal such as suicide, homicide, maternal mortality and AIDS related deaths.

When someone is a victim of sexual violence, it affects not only the survivor, but also all the people around them. Sexual violence can affect many people in a victim/survivor’s life: parents, friends, partners, children, spouses, classmates and/or co-workers.

The consequences of rape to the woman or man can be classified either as physically, mentally or emotionally traumatic. Among the physical effects include unwanted pregnancies, diseases or health problems, and certain disruptions on the woman’s natural bodily functions. On the other hand, psychological effects range from self-pity to the more striking suicidal tendencies.

Unwanted pregnancy. Of course, the most immediate physical effect of rape is the risk for the victim of getting pregnant. Dependent on the age of the victim, she may conceive a child even if she is just reached puberty. In most instances, rape victims who do become pregnant opt to abort the child that is considered the result of the crime committed against them.  In some cases, the situation is further complicated due to abortions not being a legal option for the victim.

Exposure or transmission of certain diseases. Without their knowledge, the rape victims are also at risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS that could affect their health in the short and long term even leading to death.

Damage or disruption of body organs or functions. Since rape is a form of forced intercourse, the victim’s body usually suffers physical injury particularly to the vagina, uterus, and other parts of the reproductive system. The risks are greater if the rape victim is a child or a very young teen. In addition, the rape victims are often beaten up and tortured during and after the rape, which might even lead to losing their life in some cases.

Trauma and paranoia. The foremost psychological effect of rape will be emotional trauma and paranoia. At times, the victim will exhibit symptoms of mental and emotional trauma through solitude and exclusion. They also develop fear in mingling and socializing with strangers and other people especially men. These effects can last for the duration of the victim’s lifetime.

Self-pity or self-blame. Apart from making her aloof and isolated, rape can also lead the victim to pity or blame herself for the crime. This effect is partly caused by the social stigma or shame that societies or communities wrongly attribute to the victim. She is often deprived of the care she should receive from families and society at large, who in turn can accuse her of callous and provoking behavior. This worsens her mental state and she is left emotionally devastated.

Suicidal tendencies. The most striking effect that rape can produce in a victim is the thoughts or tendencies of committing suicide. Because of trauma, self-pity, and seclusion, rape victims often feel that there is no longer hope, and they could no longer recover and that they are not worthy of living.

If you need help

Visit One Place Family Justice Center at 530 S. Lawrence Street, Montgomery, Alabama or call 334.262.7378 or if you are in immediate danger Call 911.

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