Sexual Violence and Trauma
Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual experience. This includes touching, rape and being exposed to unwanted sexual images. Sexual violence can be a crime as defined by law in Minnesota, but there are times when sexual violence does not meet the legal definition of a crime. This does not mean the person who has experienced the violence is any less impacted. The effects of sexual violence are valid regardless of legal definitions. Anyone who has experienced any type of sexual violence deserves support and validation.
Sexual violence disproportionately impacts some communities. The National Alliance to End Homelessness (2009) found that homeless LGBTQ individuals were 7.4 times more likely to experience sexual violence than their peers. Women with a developmental disability are four to ten times more likely to experience sexual assault than other women (Sobsey, 1994). College age individuals have a higher risk of being sexually assaulted, with one in five college age women being sexually assaulted on campus (Krebs, et al, 1997).
Although some populations experience higher rates of sexual violence than others, the truth is that sexual violence can impact anyone regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status or relationship status.
The effects of sexual violence vary from person to person. Any response to sexual violence is a normal response to an abnormal situation. Some individuals report experiencing intrusive memories or thoughts about the event, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, relationship difficulties, sexual difficulties and problems with self-esteem. The National Center for PTSD reports that one third of victims/survivors of rape will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime.
People often find working with a trauma-informed therapist or a trained sexual assault advocate to be helpful. Some people find comfort in a support group with other individuals who have experienced sexual violence. Family members and close friends of victims/survivors of sexual assault are also impacted by the violence and can benefit from getting support themselves.
Sexual assault is never the victim/survivor's fault. If you have a loved one who has experienced sexual assault you can offer support by believing them, not blaming them for the assault, and validating their feelings. If you have experienced sexual violence, there are places you can go where you will be believed and respected.
Crisis Line: 612-871-5111
Krebs, C. P., Lindquist, C., Warner, T., Fisher, B., & Martin, S. (2007). The campus sexual assault (CSA) study: Final report. Retrieved from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/221153.pdf
LGBTQ Homeless Youth Fact Sheet: The National Alliance to End Homelessness (2009). Also see http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/LGBTQhomelessF actSheetbyNAEH.pdf
Sobsey, D. Violence and Abuse in the Lives of People with Disabilities: The End of Silent Acceptance? Baltimore, Maryland: Paul H Brookes Publishing Co, Inc., 1994.