HOW IS THE VICTIM AFFECTED
Being a victim of sexual violence can impair the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and also the quality of the victim’s relationships.
Sexual violence does not always leave physical marks. The impact on the victim’s mental health and emotional wellbeing are usually more intense and cause more discomfort and suffering than the physical injuries.
The effects of sexual violence on the victim depend on:
- the type, severity and duration of the sexual violence, that is, the form(s) of sexual violence suffered by the victim, the use of weapons and/or of physical violence, the number of offenders and the number of times it occurs.
- the relationship between the victim and the offender, that is, whether the offender was unknown, close to or intimate with the victim;
- the victim’s age;
- the victim’s life experience and the meaning he/she gives to what happened, that is, whether or not the victim had previous experiences of sexual violence and also whether the victim blames himself/herself or thinks it is somehow responsible for what happened;
- on the support the victim received after revealing what happened to him/her and on how close people reacted, that is, whether they believed in the victim’s experience or not, whether they supported the victim and tried to protect him/her or, on the contrary, whether they blamed the victim or thought he/she was responsible for what happened.
Each victim reacts differently. All reactions are natural: they are the way the body responds to a complex life experience.
However, some of the following reactions and effects may occur in different areas of the victim’s life:
- Injuries and wounds to the victim’s body caused by the violence of physical force used by the offender when committing the sexual violence;
- Injuries and wounds caused by the sexual violence, such as injuries in the sexual organs, pain, bleeding, etc.;
- Sexual and reproductive health problems, such as sexually transmitted infections (e.g.: HIV; genital herpes; chlamydia); urinary infections; pelvic pain; unwanted pregnancies; abortion;
- Other health consequences that usually occur after the sexual violence, such as loss of appetite, stomach pain, headaches, insomnia and nightmares (associated to persistent thoughts about what happened).
EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING:
- Feelings of shame, guilt, anger, fear, humiliation and powerlessness;
- Deep sadness and apathy;
- Mood swings;
- Denial, that is, refusing to believe in what happened and avoiding thinking about or remembering what happened;
- Persistent and uncomfortable thoughts and memories about what happened;
- Fear that no one will believe in what happened;
- Fear of how the closed people may react when they know what happened.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder;
- Other Anxiety Disorders, such as panic attacks, phobias;
- Sleep disorders;
- Substance dependence;
- Sexual dysfunctions with no underlying medical causes, such as: sexual aversion, decreased sex drive, deep genital or pelvic pain during sexual intercourse taking place after the sexual violence, involuntary contractions during sexual intercourse taking place after the sexual violence.
BEHAVIOURAL AND RELATIONSHIP CHANGES:
- Isolation or detachment from the people who are close to the victim;
- Distrusting other people’s intentions;
- Difficulty in relating to others;
- Deterioration of the quality of the relationship between the victim and his/her intimate partner, particularly in their sexual life;
- Lack of interest for activities and areas previously enjoyed.
If you have been a victim of sexual violence and identify with any of these effects and reactions, it is very important to seek professional help and support. Click here, to know how and where to get help.