The mental health effects of trauma
For victims of sexual violence and assault, the effect doesn’t end when the physical impact starts to rebuild. The memory of being sexually assaulted can have long lasting effect on a victim’s mental health and wellbeing.
Some of these effects can include: Anxiety- a feeling of unease, worry or fear. Depression- low mood or sadness, feeling hopeless and helpless, feeling tearful, feeling guilt ridden. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)- reliving a traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks. Eating disorders- an unhealthy attitude to food, as well as becoming obsessed with body image, shape and weight. Sleeping problems- finding it hard to go sleep, waking up several times in the night, feeling tired and irritable, feeling tired after waking up.
Unfortunately, most victims of sexual assault will experience these effects. Other effects might include the victim feeling shame, guilt or fear, and social isolation and withdrawal from certain things, places or people.
Being sexually assaulted can have a huge impact on someone’s life and it’s important for victims to pay attention to changes in both their physical and mental health, but it can be extremely difficult for a victim to speak about being sexually abused or assaulted, meaning it can also be very difficult to then also speak about how it’s effecting their mental health and wellbeing. But it’s important to know that there are services that can help:
· Lifecentre0808 802 0808 (freephone) 07717 989 022 (textline) lifecentre.uk.com Support for survivors of sexual abuse and anyone supporting them, including a helpline, text support and email counselling.
· One in Four oneinfour.org.uk Advocacy service, counselling service (available over Skype and in several languages) and information for people who have experienced sexual abuse
· Rape Crisis England & Wales 0808 802 9999 rapecrisis.org.uk Support for women and girls affected by rape, sexual abuse or any form of sexual violence. Provides details of local centres.
· A doctor or nurse at your GP surgery
· NHS 111
For relatives and friends of someone who has been sexually assaulted the NHS advises on what you can do to help:
· Don't judge them, don't blame them. A sexual assault is never the fault of the person who is abused.
· Listen to the person, but don't ask for details of the assault. Don't ask them why they didn't stop it. This can make them feel as though you blame them.
· Offer practical support, such as going with them to appointments.
· Respect their decisions – for example, whether or not they want to report the assault to the police.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for educational purposes only. Nothing in this article is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. All views are by the team, unless stated otherwise.