Each year, hundreds of thousands of people become the victims of sexual assault. Many of these assaults are not reported to police, leaving victims feeling imprisoned by the trauma. As a result, the victims of these assaults are at an increased risk for developing depression, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
La Ventana offers integrated treatment for the victims of sexual violence who are dealing with mental illness as a result of the trauma. Our goal is to help these victims process the trauma and be open and honest about their past struggles. This does not mean that all of the pain will be erased, but it does allow healing to begin.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, realize that intervention and treatment may be necessary for healing, particularly when mental illness is involved. No one is born with the coping skills for processing rape or sexual violence, but coping is even more difficult for those with depression or PTSD.
Here is more information on sexual assault and how La Ventana can support healing.
Understanding Sexual Assault
A person does not have to be brutally raped to experience sexual assault. Sexual assault refers to any sexual behavior that is not wanted by the victim. This includes:
- Attempted rape
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts
It’s important to know what sexual violence is so that you can take these incidents seriously and report them to police. Just because a rape is not completed does not mean sexual assault did not occur. The incident still happened and the person can still experience trauma that jeopardizes their mental health.
Also, more than half of sexual assaults occur near or in the victim’s home, which means their sense of safety is compromised. To make matters worse, most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. In an instant, the victim’s world is shattered when they realize they are not safe in their home or near people they once trusted.
How Does Sexual Assault Impact Mental Health?
Sexual assault has various effects on a person’s short- and long-term mental health. Many survivors say they have flashbacks of the assault as well as feelings of shame, guilt, isolation and shock. People who are victims of sexual violence are at an increased risk for the following:
- Depression. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting over 16 million Americans each year. There are different types of depression, including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
- PTSD. Roughly 12 million Americans have PTSD in any given year. Though it’s normal to feel a range of emotions when experiencing a traumatic event, these emotions should get better over time. If they persist and interfere with daily living, a diagnosis of PTSD may follow.
- Anxiety. Anxiety disorders can be debilitating. They cause people to feel frightened, distressed and uneasy for no reason. Without treatment, anxiety can cause a person’s life to unravel. Sadly, over 42 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders.
- Substance abuse disorders. Substance abuse is a growing problem in our society. Survivors of sexual assault are more prone to substance abuse disorders because they use drugs and alcohol to cope.
- Eating disorders. Despite the name and symptoms, eating disorders are not just about food. They are complex, psychiatric conditions that often stem from a need to cope with negative emotions.
Why Most Sexual Assault Incidents are Not Reported to Police
It’s clear that sexual assault is a very real problem in the United States, but it remains dramatically underreported. The U.S. Department of Justice says that 70-80 percent of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. Other studies show similar results.
Why is it so common for the survivors of sexual assault to decline reporting the incident to police? Here are some of the key reasons why this is the case.
- Fear of retaliation. The most common reason why victims do not report their assault to police is due to fear of retaliation. Considering that 8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, this is a very real fear. Victims don’t want to cause problems or be retaliated against by the perpetrator or society itself.
- Feelings of shame. In our society, it’s often the victims who are blamed. This is no different for sexual assault cases. To avoid shame, embarrassment and ridicule, victims keep quiet about the assault.
- Believes the police won’t do anything. Sometimes when sexual violence happens, the details are hazy. This could be from the trauma that took place or other factors, such as alcohol. When this happens, victims may be afraid to come forward due to a lack of evidence.
- Previous relationship with the perpetrator. Most rapes happen from someone the victim knows. Because of this previously established relationship, some victims do not report the assault. They may do this to avoid the person getting in trouble or for other reasons, such as breaking up their family.
There are many reasons why sexual violence victims do not report these crimes. While this may seem to be the best choice at the time, this is rarely the case. The feelings of shame, guilt and trauma continue to pile up and go unresolved, compromising the person’s mental health and stability.
Sexual Trauma Victims Benefit from Mental Health Treatment
La Ventana provides integrated healing for individuals who are battling trauma from sexual assault. Our complete, integrated healing takes place in a safe, supportive environment with trained counselors and individualized treatment plans. We provide intensive, structured care that helps clients come to terms with their past trauma and cope with it in a healthy, constructive manner.
The past will be a part of your story, but it does not have to define you. And it certainly doesn’t have to determine your future. To start or continue your path to healing as a sexual assault survivor, contact La Ventana today.