To stop these awful things from happening, first, we need to talk about it. We need to stop shaming victims, and stop telling them to be silenced.
When victims of sexual abuse speak up, they need to be able to know where to go to start the process of healing. They need a list of advocates, lawyers, anyone who will help them heal from the inside out. They need to know they are not alone and the healing process is going to long-term. Nothing is ever cured on short-term bases.
Mental Effects from Sexual Abuse:
PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event. Some common symptoms associated with PTSD are flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time and support, such traumatic reactions usually get better.
Depression. Depression is more than common feelings of temporary sadness. Depression is not a sign of weakness, and it is not something that someone can make him/herself “snap out of.” Symptoms can include prolonged sadness, feelings of hopelessness, unexplained crying, changes in appetite with significant weight loss or gain, loss of energy or loss of interest and pleasure in activities previously enjoyed. Depression can affect a person’s outlook, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness. This can impact his or her thought process and ability to make decisions. In extreme cases, people may even experience suicidal thoughts and/or attempts.
*If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, refer them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK
Dissociation. Dissociation usually refers to feeling like one has “checked out” or is not present. In some instances of dissociation, people may find themselves daydreaming. In situations where dissociation is chronic and more complex it may impair an individual’s ability to function in the “real” world, such as not being able to focus on work related duties or being able to concentrate on schoolwork.
Victims usually feel they have lost their security, or their gut instincts after such events. They also may experience so many emotions at different times. Which their emotions could be confusing to the victims, in return could cause more anxiety, anger, distrust and the feeling of being unsafe. Every victim will react differently with these events. No one will act completely the same. If you are a victim with these thoughts or feelings, please know you are never alone. Never.
Sometimes the victim doesn’t even have physical signs of any sexual abuse, please know that does not mean they did not go through sexual abuse, or assault.
Did you know…
Around 5% of rape cases end in pregnancy. A survivor of rape who becomes pregnant might experience a wall of emotions. If you know anyone who ended up pregnant due to rape, please let them know about Planned Parenthood, there should be local organizations who will help.
Survivors can also experience tons of emotions which affect their mind, body and spirit. A person can experience: chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle tension, involuntary shaking, changes in eating and sleeping patterns and even sexual dysfunction.
Emotional effects of Sexual Abuse:
Changes in who to trust
Anger and Blame
Loss of control
Sense of vulnerability
Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
Self-blame or Guilt
Feeling of these reactions are a sign of weakness
Some survivors experience the inability to sleep, being kept awake due to nightmares, or horrible daydreams, which replay the attack over and over again. Often times small activities seem to help keep the mind busy, and the survivor is able to enjoy peace during those times. Small activities including: cooking, reading, painting, and meditating. Each survivor will go through emotions differently, they will also go through the healing processes differently as well. Survivors, you are not alone. You do not have to heal alone either.
Flashbacks. Flashbacks are memories of past traumas feel as if they are taking place in the current moment. These memories can take many forms: dreams, sounds, smells, images, body sensations, or overwhelming emotions. This re-experience of the trauma often seems to come from nowhere, and blurs the lines between past and present, leaving the individual feeling anxious, scared, and/or powerless. It can also trigger any other emotions that were felt at the time of the trauma.
Things to do if you have a flashback:
Grounded. The first thing to do is sit up straight and put both feet on the floor. This will help you to feel grounded.
Breathe. Focus your breathing. This will help with calming and also keep your heart rate lower.
Know Your Surroundings. Look around you, soak in everything around you. Pay close attention to detail. This will help keep you in the present.
Self-Soothing. Enjoy your favorite treat: milkshake, candy, drink, shower, etc. Just something.
You are Normal. All of these feelings are normal, you are healing.
Talk. Reach out to someone after a flashback. Use your voice.