What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a broad term that describes any sexual act that is coerced or in which the victim is incapable of providing consent. Rape (including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration), drug facilitated assault, intimate partner violence, groping, and sexual torture are all forms of sexual assault, as are flashing, peeping, cat calls and sexual harassment.
How common is sexual assault?
Unfortunately, sexual assault is incredibly common. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, someone in the United States is physically assaulted every 98 seconds. About 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men has been a victim of rape. The majority of sexual assaults are committed on people under the age of 30.
Who perpetrates sexual assault?
There is a general belief that most sexual assaults are committed by strangers, but that is not true. In reality, more than 70% of all sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim already knows. About half of all perpetrators are over the age of 30. Sexual predators tend to be repeat offenders. In fact, more than half of all alleged rapists have been convicted of a least one prior rape.
What are the effects of sexual assault?
Sexual assault causes a staggering array of negative effects. Immediately after an attack, victims may have to cope with physical injuries, STDs, or pregnancy, as well as flashbacks, lingering feelings of fear, and insomnia. If these feelings persist, they can eventually lead to the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Victims of sexual assault are also at increased risk for developing depression, suicidal feelings, substance addiction, and eating disorders. Victims often have problems with trust after an assault and may have problems forming healthy relationships. They are at increased risk for self-harming behaviors.
The second injury
How a victim of sexual assault is treated right after an attack—or right after telling of an attack—has a direct impact on how quickly and how well she will heal. If victims are treated with callousness by medical personnel, law enforcement, friends or family, if they are blamed for the attack or not believed, they are much more likely to develop long-term symptoms of trauma. Historically, victims of sexual assault have been treated very poorly by other members of society, and many victims claim that this poor treatment is harder to deal with than the actual attack. This has led some to dubbed the poor treatment of victims the “second injury.”
What are remedies for the effects of sexual assault?
In order to insure the best long-term outcome for a victim, she or he must be treated with kindness and compassion directly after an assault—or anytime the victim chooses to disclose information about an assault. First and foremost, it is important to believe a victim of sexual assault. It is equally important not to imply to the victim that the attack was somehow her or his fault.
Directly after a sexual assault, helpers should ensure the victim’s physical safety and facilitate medical care if necessary. After this, it is important to give the victim control over the situation by allowing him or her to decide where to go and who to be with. Right after an assault, victims may or may not want to talk about what they’ve been through. It’s important not to press the matter. The first rules are to help the victim feel safe again and back in control.
If treated well by the people around them, many victims of sexual assault will naturally start to feel better over time. Others may need some form of group or individual psychotherapy to process what they’ve been through. Medication can also help in alleviating feelings of depression or anxiety.
With proper care and treatment, victims of sexual assault can overcome what they’ve been through and go one to lead satisfying, successful lives.
What is child abuse?
Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or inaction, causes harm to a child. There are many forms of child abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. Growing up in a home where there is domestic abuse, substance abuse, or other scary, chaotic, or violent parental behavior is also a fo(rm of abuse.
How common is child abuse?
Because of the secretive nature of child abuse and various definitions of what abuse constitutes, it is difficult to know exactly how many children are abused. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 adults (25%) in the U.S. say they were abused as children. The true number is probably higher, as many adults do not realize that their parents’ harsh punishments, neglect, abandonment, substance abuse, or violent behaviors are forms of child abuse.
What causes child abuse?
Child abuse is a complex problem with multiple causes. The use of physical or corporal punishment is a major risk factor. More than 2/3 of all child abuse is the result of punishment that got out of hand. Parents who have unrealistic and age-inappropriate expectations for their children’s behavior are more likely to commit child abuse, as are parents with anger management problems. Some other factors that have been shown to increase the likelihood of child abuse are parental substance abuse, parental mental illness, domestic violence in the home, and poverty. Children born of unintended pregnancies and children with disabilities are at increased risk.
What are the effects of child abuse?
Child abuse can cause a range of psychological, emotional, and physical problems. One long-term study found that up to 80% of abused people had at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21, with problems including depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. Adults who were abused as children are at increased risk for low self-esteem, dissociative symptoms, and difficulties with trust and relationships. Victims are also more likely to commit crimes as juveniles and adults.
Adults who experienced abuse or neglect during childhood are more likely to suffer from physical ailments such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure, and ulcers. There may be a higher risk of developing cancer later in life, as well as possible immune dysfunction.
Unfortunately, many children are abused multiple times in multiple ways. Poly-victimization, especially experiencing different types of abuse (e.g., physical, sexual, neglect) is associated with the development of more symptoms of trauma. There is a strong relationship between the number of abusive experiences a child experiences and later cigarette smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, attempted suicide, sexual promiscuity, and sexually transmitted diseases. People who reported higher numbers of negative experiences in childhood were also more likely to have heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, skeletal fractures, liver disease, and poor health as an adult.
What are remedies for the effects of child sexual abuse?
Many adults who were abused as children do not realize how it may have affected them, so they don’t seek help for the abuse. Instead, they eventually enter psychotherapy for secondary issues like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and relationship problems. During the course of therapy, victims of child abuse often begin to see a link between their current problems and their past abuse. In remembering the abuse and mourning its damage, survivors can free themselves to lead more fulfilling lives.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline Personality Disorder is a condition in which a person feels perpetually unstable. People suffering from BPD typically have an unstable sense of self, unstable emotions, and unstable relationships. Desperate to be loved yet fearing abandonment, they have a tendency to quickly attach to others only to become enrage when others can’t meet their impossible expectations. Deep inside, people with BPD struggle with feelings of self-loathing, which can cause them to self-harm and become suicidal.
What causes Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
The is a strong correlation between Borderline Personality Disorder and trauma in childhood. Specifically, many people with BPD report histories of neglect, abandonment, and/or abuse in childhood, including verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. People with BPD often report that as children their thoughts and feelings were invalidated by caregivers. They also report that their caregivers were either emotionally unavailable or treated them inconsistently—running hot and cold. It is theorized that abnormal attachment patterns with caregivers may be the basis for later developing Borderline Personality Disorder.
How common is Borderline Personality Disorder?
At any given time, approximately 1.6% of the general population is suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. Women are three times more likely to suffer from BPD as men. This is possibly because girls are about three to four times more likely to suffer child sexual abuse than boy. BPD is more common in young adults than older adults, possibly because people outgrow the disorder as they age.
What are the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?
The most noticeable feature of Borderline Personality Disorder is stormy personal relationships. People with BPD tend to be starving for love and affection, yet they have an inherent distrust of others and constantly fear disrespect and abandonment. Because of this, people with BPD are hypersensitive to any kind of insult or rejection and are notorious for becoming enraged with people who they believe have hurt them.
People with Borderline Personality Disorder suffer from feelings of shame and deep self-loathing. This make them susceptible to depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and self-harm behaviors, including suicidality.
What are remedies for Borderline Personality Disorder?
Due to self-harm behaviors, suicide attempts, and substance abuse, people with BPD are frequent users of mental health services. Long-term psychotherapy is the preferred treatment for sufferers of BPD. Dialectic Behavior Therapy, either in a group or individually, has also been shown to be effective. In addition, people with BPD may benefit from medication to help with feelings of anxiety and depression. With proper treatment, most people with BPD can overcome the disorder completely and go on to lead satisfying and fulfilling lives.
Dr. Michelle Stevens is a psychologist, writer, and expert on trauma. She wrote the bestselling book, Scared Selfless: My Journey from Abuse and Madness to Surviving and Thriving (Putnam, 2017).