SURVIVING A SEXUAL ASSAULT
Introduction to sexual assault
Sexual abuse refers mostly to the involvement of a person under the age of sixteen with someone who is significantly older than them. Society assumes that the older person is taking advantage of the younger person because the younger person is unable to act with full consent regarding their sexual activity. The assumption is that the victim does not understand all the implications of the sexual activity when it happens. The victim may appear to fully consent to the activity but the consent is not based on complete information. The assaulter could be young also although in most cases, there is a significant age difference between the two. This puts the older person in power and puts the younger person in a state of fear of the consequences if the sexual activity is not done.
Sexual abuse can also happen in the case of two adults. When one adult has power or influence over the other adult and uses this power to take advantage of the other person sexually then there is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse can happen once or it can happen repeatedly. Sexual abuse can range from inappropriate touching all the way to sexual intercourse. The abuser can be anyone. It could be a relative, a stranger, or someone you work with. The sexual incident can be terrifying and traumatic when it happens but later on, more negative emotions and feelings may arise when the situation is understood completely.
Sexual abuse often occurs in schools. Students who are sexually abused should find the information here helpful. It can be used as a guide for those who have been sexually assaulted or for those who want to prevent any sexual assault from happening to them. People who are currently experiencing sexual abuse are called victims whilst those who have experienced it in the past are referred to as survivors of sexual abuse. Here are some examples of sexual abuse
- there are girls who have been sexually assaulted by their fathers at an early age. Later on, when they report what happened, their fathers are tried and then imprisoned for their actions
- there are boys who have been abused by their coaches at school. They thought that they were alone during the incidents but later on found out that there were other boys being abused
- there was a young girl who was abused by their older step brother and when the young girl reached puberty, she realized that the step brother was being intrusive sexually already
- there was a young boy who was sexually abused by his uncle and his aunt where he used to stay. The abuse took place over several years and the boy did not speak up about it until he was old already
- there were two sisters who were abused by their grandfather and they never spoke about it until they grew up
Sexual abuse can happen to a boy or to a girl. The assaulters can also be male or female. According to studies in the United Kingdom, ten percent of children will suffer some sort of sexual abuse. Two thirds of these children will be female. Ninety percent of the assaulters or abusers are male.
A close look at the experience of the victim at the time of abuse
Here are some of the experiences of victims when they were being abused
- the victim will feel very alone during the time of sexual abuse. Most of the time, they hesitate telling other people because there will be dire consequences to them and to their family
- the victim is afraid that they will not be taken seriously or people will not believe them when they say what happened
- the victim will feel guilty about the incident especially if they found it gratifying. Children normally tend to take responsibility for an event that they could not control and this is similar to the case of abuse
- the victim normally feels scared and very confused with what has happened
A close look at the life of the survivor after the abuse
The experience of sexual abuse may be partially or fully forgotten after a few years as the survivor moves on with their lives. Some memories could resurface when the survivor is in a serene place, when the survivor becomes a parent, or when the survivor enters a sexual relationship. These memories could bring strong feelings in the form of
- nightmares - the abusive incident may resurface in the form of dreams
- flashbacks - you may have flashes of the abusive incident while you are awake
- shame - the survivor may feel embarrassed about what happened. They may have low self esteem and feel very depressed about the incident
- guilt - the survivor may feel like blaming themselves. They can become extremely depressed and may even contemplate on committing suicide
- intense anger - extreme anger may be felt by the victim. They may want to confront the person who abused them or they may want to completely avoid that person. They may also have anger towards the people who have connived with the abuser
- disruption in relationship patterns - those who have survived sexual abuse may develop resentment towards intimate relationships and they may even have a hard time trusting other people. Some people may form very intense relationships and find themselves emotionally drained afterwards
- fear of the consequences that result from sexual abuse - survivors may find it difficult to be in a normal relationship. They may fear that they could become an abuser also. They may have a hard time enjoying sexual activities
- isolation and stigmatisation - survivors may have a tendency to feel alone with what they have experienced. They may develop a feeling where other people know what has happened to them and feel that others treat them in a different way
When humans respond to trauma, they will do so in different ways. Some people could come to terms with their sexual experience without much difficulty while others will carry the burden heavily for the rest of their lives. Completely ignoring the situation or completely burdening yourself with the situation is not the correct response to sexual abuse. Here are some tips on how you should respond to a sexually abusive encounter
Do not blame yourself
In any case where the child has been abused sexually, it will never be the fault of the child. There may be some chance of acting differently in the sexual encounter but nevertheless, it is still the adult’s duty to supervise the child and protect them from any kind of exploitation. Survivors can observe children at a certain age. Specifically, they observe children who are at the age when they were exploited. They will notice the power of adults over children. They will notice that it is very easy for an adult to manipulate a child, take advantage of their innocence, and exploit them.
You should take care of yourself now
Even if something bad has been done to you, it does not mean that you should deprive yourself from pleasure or punish yourself. When you treat your body properly then this will help your body heal. You should treat your body respectfully. You should look for ways to treat your body properly and kindly. You may want to consider getting involved in sports, going to the spa, or eating healthy meals. You should ward away any activities that harm your body like starving yourself or overeating. You should not attempt to commit suicide. If you are experiencing these feelings then you should seek help from a doctor or a psychiatrist right away.
You should find suitable ways of expressing your feelings
People who have been sexually abused have reason to feel angry and it may be difficult to manage these feelings. It can be very difficult to express these feelings to the person responsible for it. If you express these feelings of anger towards the person responsible for it then you may not even get a response. The person may even deny what happened or may not accept any responsibility from what has happened. Instead of venting your anger that way, you should look for people who can listen to you and sympathize with you like a fellow human being.
Some people find it therapeutic to write down what they feel. They write down everything that they feel in the form of a letter. This letter does not even have to be sent. You can relieve yourself from feelings of anger by engaging in exercise, sports, going to a private place, or simply meditating. Grief is relieved when people reflect on it and express their sadness. You should not allow these feelings to take over your life. Express these feelings properly and you will be able to control them. When feelings are bottled up, they are likely to affect your physiological health and you should not allow this to happen.
You should look for support and privacy
People who are abused may feel that they are isolated. When you talk about your negative sexual experience, other people may over react or simply not believe you. Nowadays, sexual abuse is already recognized and there is a support community out there that is always ready to help you. There are a lot of organizations and agencies that are willing to assist survivors and prevent any other sexual assaults from happening.
There are people out there that feel that their experience is already known by others. They may feel that their privacy has been invaded. You should only tell people about your negative sexual experience if you trust them. Moreover, it is up to you to disclose how much information. If you do not tell people then they will have no way of knowing what has happened to you. No one has the right to judge you either and you should not allow other people’s opinion about you to affect you.
You should not despair
People can heal through time. You should not underestimate the capacity to heal of a human being. If you have been sexually assaulted then you may feel that there is no way you can return to normal. You may feel that you are incapable of being in a normal relationship and you may feel that you are incapable of having a satisfactory sex life. You may think that you will never be able to recover from the negative sexual experience. The truth is that human beings are very resilient and you should not underestimate the capacity of a human being to heal. You may not be able to change the past but you are able to make sense with what happened to you and you should be able to manage it with the proper attitude.