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Sexual Assault and the Role it Plays in Mental Health

By April 19, 2022April 20th, 2022Blog

April is a busy month and, thus far, we’ve covered National Volunteer Month and Month of the Military Child. But we can’t forget Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Woman holding up hand with words Stop Sexual AssaultBefore we get too far, let’s establish a baseline for sexual assault so we’re all working from the same starting place. First, sexual assault is when sexual behavior occurs without the victim’s consent. And while the legal definition of sexual assault may vary slightly according to the jurisdiction in which you live, Rape, Incest & Abuse National Network defines it as the following:

  • Attempted rape
  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
  • Penetration of the victim’s body (also known as rape)

One thing is true no matter where you live or which form of sexual assault takes place, it is never the fault of the victim.

Stats Don’t Lie

Sexual assault does not discriminate. Men, women and children are all affected. RAINN reports the following statistics:

  • An American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds
  • One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime vs one in 33 American men
  • A majority of child victims are aged 12-17 with 34% of those experiencing sexual assault and rape under the age of 12

Those are pretty sobering numbers. And they are based on reported sexual assaults. It’s believed that more than two-thirds of all sexual assaults go unreported by victims.

Sexual Assault and Mental Health

In an article about the mental health impact of rape, it’s revealed that PTSD, major depression and substance abuse are just a few of the mental illnesses that victims of sexual assault experience – and on a greater scale than those who have not been assaulted. There is also an increased risk of suicide.

Shame, guilt and the stigma of rape are very real emotions for victims who often are concerned that people will find about their rape. Many also experience the following fears:

  • Victim-blaming
  • Their identities being revealed in the media
  • Becoming pregnant or contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS

The psychological effects of sexual assault can be both short- and long-term so it’s very important to seek out a mental health professional at the first signs of trouble. Please visit this page for a full list of helpful resources for both sexual assault survivors and their loved ones.

Give an Hour presents FREE Webinar - Healing with HOPE: unMASKing the Hurt Caused by Sexual Assault

Give an Hour is presenting a free webinar on April 20 at noon EST, titled, “Healing with HOPE: unMASKing the Hurt Caused by Sexual Assault.” Join our panelists to discuss overcoming stigma and the challenging path sexual assault survivors must travel to unMASK their HOPE. Register here. This webinar is just one resource Give an Hour is offering in conjunction with the launch of “unMASKing HOPE,” a full-length documentary that follows a diverse group of trauma survivors who don masks to hide spiritual and emotional pain.

Please view the webinar recording here.