Effect of Sexual Assault on Women Sexual Assault Victims
Assault on women, in the form of sexual violence, is epidemic in the United States, according to a government study conducted in 2010. The study, called The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, found that almost one in every five women reported that they had been raped or had been victims of attempted rape at some point in their lives. The effect of sexual assault can persist for decades.
Effect of Sexual Assault
The effect of sexual assault on women takes many forms – some lasting a relatively short while and others lasting for years after the incident occurred. While men can experience sexual assault, assault on women is far more prevalent. The mental and physical effects of sexual assault on women include:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Victims may experience severe anxiety, stress, and fear as an effect of sexual assault.
- Substance Abuse – Women sexual assault victims may use alcohol or drugs to dull their emotional suffering and pain.
- Self-Harm – Some sexual assault victims may harm themselves by cutting or other means.
- Depression – Depression represents one of the most common effects of sexual assault on women.
- Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) – Perpetrators of sexual violence may infect their victims with STDs.
- Pregnancy – Sometimes, assault on women may result in pregnancy.
- Flashbacks – Some victims become tormented by flashback memories that make it seem as if the sexual assault is happening all over again.
- Eating Disorders – Frequently, victims of sexual assault may use food to control and cope with their negative emotions. Using food in this way can result in the development of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
- Sleep Disorders – Sexual assault survivors may develop sleep disorders characterized by sleeping too much or not being able to sleep.
- Body Memories – Frequently referred to as psychosomatic symptoms, body memories occur in the form of physical problems like headaches, migraines, digestive issues, light headedness, or dizziness that medical examinations cannot explain.
Most women sexual assault victims suffer from some form of debilitating mental and emotional aftershocks, these often subside. Once these dissipate, the victims often feel like they've gotten past the worst part of the aftermath and try to carry on with their lives as usual. The longer lasting effects of sexual assault then begin to manifest a little at a time; unless the victims seek ongoing help from sexual assault counseling groups and mental health professionals who specialize in helping victims overcome any potential long-term effect of sexual assault.
Last Updated: 12 April 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD