Sexual assault refers to sexual contact, coercion, behavior or forced conduct that occurs without the explicit consent of the other individual.
It is a grave violation of human rights and a person’s dignity, as well as a severe criminal offense. Regardless of how extreme the assault was, it usually causes severe mental and emotional harm to the person it was inflicted upon, even if that isn’t initially realized.
The immediate physical trauma of sexual assault can be so intense that many people don’t realize the toll it’s taken on their mental and emotional health until weeks or months later.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how sexual assault affects the whole person.
How does sexual assault affect someone?
Sexual assault can affect people in multiple ways, and since no two people are alike, there is also no one way that everyone reacts to assault.
Both the body and the mind are subjected to the trauma of the experience, which means both the mind and the body must process and work through what happened in order for the individual to fully recover. Neglecting either one’s physical or mental health will only elongate the suffering and prolong the healing.
Depending on other factors in a person’s life and the type of coping mechanisms they use (whether healthy or unhealthy), the short- and long-term effects they experience will vary.
Effects of sexual assault on physical health
Because sexual assault is a physical trauma by nature, it will always take a toll on a person’s physical health.
What many people don’t realize though, is that their body will be impacted in more ways than one by the assault. Additionally, the effects can manifest in ways that aren’t always an obvious connection
The most common effects of sexual assault on physical health include:
- Immediate injuries (bruises, cuts, sprains, internal trauma)
- Sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STDs or STIs)
- Chronic pain or fatigue
- Reproductive issues (typically more so in women than men)
- Self-harming activities or suicidal actions
In addition to experiencing a variety of physical symptoms, most individuals will also experience a significant impact that’s inflicted on their mental health.
Effects of sexual assault on mental health
One of the most severe ways that sexual assault affects an individual is through the intense psychological impact it has on their mental health.
Our mental health is fragile, and the state of our mental health affects every area of our lives; when we experience trauma like sexual assault, it takes a significant toll on our mental health.
Some of the effects of sexual assault on mental health include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD trauma)
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar and panic disorders
- Decreased self-esteem and sense of self-worth
- Chronic feelings of guilt, shame, despair
- Emotional numbing and dissociation
Sexual assault can have both similar and differing effects on the victims, specifically on how they might respond to the effects. For example, two people may develop depression, but only one might outwardly and blatantly exhibit signs of that depression; the other might hide it very well.
Because of this, it’s essential to be empathetic with every person who’s experienced sexual assault, man or woman, blatantly suffering or not. Just because they might not “look” or “seem” like someone who’s been assaulted, doesn’t mean they’re suffering any less than those who are.
If you or someone you love has suffered from being sexually assaulted, reach out to us; you deserve to heal and experience life to the fullest.
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