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How Does Sexual Assault Affect Someone Psychologically?

Victims of sexual assault undergo more than physical suffering. The pain inflicted goes beyond the wounds that are shown to the outside world. Victims deal with lifelong traumas and recurring nightmares of a past they so badly want to hide. The physical pain their abusers left is horrible enough. But to get up each day fighting with your mind, forcing yourself to forget something that’s not even your fault, it’s a whole different type of messed up & no one deserves to experience any of it.

If you know someone or you’re a victim of sexual assault and abuse, you can reach out to sexual assault lawyers for legal assistance. Sex offenses are punishable by severe sentences. Excellent and competent lawyers will help you get the justice you so deserve and punish your abusers so no other person will suffer at their hands again.

To help you or your loved ones deal with and understand the trauma of such a horrible incident, we have listed some psychological effects victims of sexual assault often experience.

Victims often experience nightmares.

Because a sexual assault is not something someone can just easily forget and throw in the trash bin, victims often think about the horrible things done to them, even in their sleep. More often than not, dreams are a reflection of what we have seen and feel while we are awake and interacting in the outside world. So having nightmares after a traumatic experience, like sexual assault, is prevalent among victims. What happens within these disturbing and fearful dreams frequently includes the exact feelings and sensations a victim experiences firsthand during the traumatic abuse. 

That is why some victims resort to an unhealthy coping mechanism of substance abuse to help them overcome the fear of getting into sleep. Or, for others, they develop other psychological challenges, such as insomnia. 

Because of the trauma, some victims develop eating disorders.

People often do a change in eating patterns as a form of coping mechanism to stress. Others find comfort by eating more than usual, while some make themselves feel better by eating less. For victims of very traumatic and painful abuse, such as sexual assault, can do these coping mechanisms to an extreme. 

When losing control causes physical or psychological harm, craving power to feel a sense of safety and security is natural. When individuals cannot manage their surroundings or others around them, they may switch to their bodies and end up controlling them. They may have lost all control of their environment or bodies due to the harassment, so they pave a way to regain control, even through unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Binge eating or restricting all affect the neurotransmission in our brains. Because of these behavioral patterns, endorphins, dopamine, and other happy hormone levels rise, providing quick but only temporary relief in the form of a dazed or pleasurable sensation.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Trauma is defined as a critical incident or set of circumstances that has long-term negative effects on an individual’s overall social, emotional, physiological, or spiritual health. 

Based on the National Institute of Mental Health, annually, more than 10 million people over the age of 18 have PTSD. It can directly impact anyone who has either witnessed or experienced a shocking, frightening, or violent event. Common symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as difficulty concentrating in your daily life and recurring fear about the event.

Signs of post-traumatic stress disorder can show up after a month of the traumatic event, but they can also appear even years later when an individual feels like she has overcome it. These symptoms cause substantial difficulties in social or occupational settings, as well as in building and nurturing relationships. They can also impair your capacity to carry out one’s usual routines and daily tasks.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, always remember that: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You don’t deserve the things that have happened to you, and you DESERVE to live a normal and happy life.

If you have a loved one who is a victim of sexual assault, make them feel loved. Let them know that the world did not turn its back on them, and they are worthy of all things good in this world. Fight for them and fight with them.

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