Short & long term effects of sexual violence & abuse against women and girls
Sexual violence is a term used to describe any non-consensual sexual act, including sexual assault, sexual abuse, date rape, stranger rape, attempted rape, incest, child sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation and assault, unwanted touching, sexual harassment, indecent exposure, sexual exploitation, stalking, obscene phone calls etc.
There is no right or wrong way to react to sexual violence. There is no time scale for recovery, no rules, set period or order for each stage, no point that you must achieve before you ‘get over it’. Every woman is different and her process and time scale for regaining control over her life is as unique and individual as she is. Whatever you do feel, whichever way you respond, is valid and therefore right for you.
There are, however, a number of common reactions you might recognise from your own experience which, by setting them out here, may enable you to realise that you are not going ‘mad’ after all; to understand better your own feelings and, perhaps, improve your ability to cope in both the short and long term. Not all of the following will apply to you at the moment or may never fit your particular circumstance; nor is this list a complete and exhaustive catalogue of what you might feel.
• DISBELIEF / DENIAL
• SEXUAL PROBLEMS
• LOSS OF CONTROL / POWERLESSNESS
• GUILT / SELF-BLAME
• FLASHBACKS & NIGHTMARES
• RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS
The best advice to give you is: don’t give up; don’t lose heart or faith in yourself or society. That may sound trite at the moment but, in time, you will not be in so much pain. Your life will get back on track and you will move from being a survivor of a violent crime into being a thriver.
Your life will no longer dominated by this traumatic experience. Remember, you are in charge of your healing journey, no one else: listen to yourself, learn to trust yourself, and take your time.
Some books you may find useful reading to aid your recovery:
Recovering from Rape by Linda E. LEDRAY, R.N., PH.D ISBN 0-8050-2928-1
The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy MALTZ, M.S.W ISBN 0-06-092155-2
Cosmopolitan RAPE: your survival guide by Elizabeth UDALL ISBN 1-86105-622-2
RAPE The Misunderstood Crime by Julie a. ALLISON & Lawrence S. WRIGHTSMAN ISBN0-8039-3707-5
The Courage to Heal by Ellen BASS & Laura DAVIS ISBN 0-09-188420-9