The Effects of Sexual Violence
Survivors of sexual assault often go through many different emotions. Everyone responds to trauma in their own way. It is important for you to understand that survivors’ feelings may change over time. Some survivors show little emotion, or even joke around about what has happened. This does not mean that they are not hurting. It simply means that they are coping.
Whatever a survivor of sexual violence is feeling, it is normal.
Some emotional effects include fear, anger, sadness, guilt, numbness, anxiety, loneliness, confusion, irritability, to name a few.
In addition to healing from physical injuries that resulted from a sexual assault, survivors may experience physical changes. Physical effects could inlcude fatigue, change in appetite, jumpiness, insomnia, stomach ache, headache.
What is Sexual Violence
Sexual assault is defined as any nonconsensual contact or penetration by physical force, by threat of bodily harm, or when the victim is incapable of giving consent by virtue of mental illness, mental retardation, intoxication or being under the age of consent (16 years old in NH). (National Coalition Against Sexual Assault).
If you or someone you care about has been affected by domestic violence, you are not alone. Turning Points Network is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to provide support and information.
5 Things Everyone Should Know About Sexual Violence
Do you need help?
1. Anyone can be a victim of sexual violence. Women and men, boys and girls, are assaulted. Individuals of different ages, races and social classes are all at risk.
2. Sexual assault is a violent crime. Pressuring, coercing or forcing someone to engage in a sex act is violent. Sexual assault inflicts harm, which may be emotional, physical or both.
3. Most sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim. 80-85% of individuals who have been assaulted know the person that hurt them (a casual acquaintance, a friend, a partner, a spouse or a family member). Assaults committed by strangers account for the remaining 15-20%.
4. Sexual assault is a crime that is motivated by a desire for power and control. It is not motivated by sexual desire or uncontrollable feelings. Perpetrators use sex as a means of gaining power over another person.
5. No one ever "asks" or "deserves" to be assaulted. The victim's identity, what s/he does for work, how s/he acts and dresses do not cause a sexual assault to occur. The person who chooses to commit the assault is 100% responsible for its occurrence.
It is estimated that one in three women and one in seven men will be sexually assaulted in her/his lifetime. Unfortunately, sexual assault remains the most dramatically under-reported crime in our country.
What to do if You Have Been Sexually Assaulted
First...Get to a safe place.
Second...Call the police, a sexual assault crisis center, or a friend.
Third...Seek medical attention.
Try not to change your clothes, bathe, douche, or wash away any evidence.
Go to the nearest hospital emergency room to be examined, have injuries treated and have medical and legal evidence collected. Bring a change of clothes with you. Any clothes worn at the time of the assault may be collected as evidence.
A Forensic Sexual Assault Medical Exam is available at any New Hampshire emergency room. If you are afraid to go to the hospital alone, an advocate from your local crisis center can meet you there. The hospital will also contact a crisis center to have an advocate meet you at the hospital, if you haven't already done so.
If you suspect you were assaulted with the aid of drugs which can render you unconscious and leave you with no memory of the attack or the perpetrator, be sure to tell the emergency room staff. They can test your blood and urine for traces of these drugs, which can be slipped into a drink and are generally tasteless, odorless and colorless. Symptoms of these drugs include feeling more intoxicated than you normally do when drinking the same amount of alcohol, waking up with memory lapses and feeling as though someone had sexual contact with you, but not being able to remember any or all of the incident.
If, for any reason, you choose not to contact police or go to an emergency room, Turning Points Network is still here to help and support you. Confidential support and information are available 24 hours a day. Advocates are available to talk to anyone who has been affected by sexual violence and abuse. If you are a minor (under the age of 18), the hospital is mandated to report your assault. The police will want to speak with you. If you have questions about this, you can always call TPN anonymously.
Hope and Healing
What happened to you never should have. You did not deserve it and it was not your fault. If you are struggling with what happened, you are not alone. Many survivors have been where you are now, and have found ways to feel better. Here are a few suggestions.
Talk about it with someone you trust. Some survivors find that simply telling their story and talking about their experience helps. Talk to someone you trust-- a family member, a friend, or a professional. Advocates at Turning Points Network are great listeners and are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Exercise. Staying active may help with feelings of depression or sadness. Exercises that focus on the mind/body connection, such as yoga or tai chi, may reduce stress and promote healing.
Find a creative outlet. Keeping a journal, making collages, writing poetry and drawing are all positive outlets for your emotions. Many survivors find these activities helpful when they feel unable to speak about what has happened or how they are feeling.
Learn. More. Find out more about how sexual assault may affect you, including stages or the range of emotions you may go through.
Pamper yourself. Do something nice for yourself, whether it’s listening to music, buying yourself a present, or just taking time to relax. Remind yourself that you deserve to feel good.
Use affirmations. Find a statement or phrase that is positive and makes you feel good about yourself (Ex. I am strong. I am a survivor.) Repeat this phrase to yourself throughout the day.