Tips for coping with violence or sexual assault i psych central


Recovering from violence and sexual assault is not an easy journey, but trauma can be managed and healed.

Violence and sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age or gender.

The emotional and physical impact this can have on the survivor and those around him can vary greatly from person to person.

Some people immediately report their assault or abuse and seek support and help in dealing with their feelings. Others may think the act was “minor” or happened “so long ago” that it doesn’t matter.

Some may feel too ashamed or embarrassed to discuss it with anyone. There are even some who may feel guilty, thinking it was their fault.

Dealing with any form of sexual violence can be difficult. If you or a loved one has been abused or sexually assaulted, there are ways to get the help and support you need.

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are sometimes used interchangeably, but understanding the distinction is essential.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse refers to unwanted sexual behavior towards children, including oral, vaginal or anal penetration.

This can happen when a child is sexually touched or is coerced or forced to touch the predator sexually.

Non-contact sexual abuse can occur without any contact, such as forcing a child to watch a sexual act, to look at the abuser’s genitals, or to engage in sexual activity.

Sexual assault

Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault or rape. This may include:

Violence or sexual assault can happen to anyone. The 2015 National Survey on Intimate Partners and Sexual Violence (NISVS) report these statistics in the United States:

  • About 1 in 5 women (or 25.5 million) report having been raped or attempted rape at some point in her life.
  • About 1 in 14 men (or 7.9 million) report having been forced into someone else at some point in their life.
  • Almost 43.6% of women (or 52.2 million) report having experienced some type of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • About 24.8% of men (or 27.6 million) report having experienced some type of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • Almost 81.3% (20.8 million) of women and 70.8% (2.0 million) of men report having experienced rape or attempted rape for the first time before the age of 25.
  • About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men report having experienced intimate partner violence, such as sexual and physical violence and / or stalking, at some point in their life.

The 2010 NISVS reports that members of the LGBTQIA + community experience rates of sexual violence equal to or greater than those of heterosexual people.

In fact, 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women report having experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetime, compared to 35% of heterosexual women.

The 2010 survey found that women of certain racial groups were more affected than others.

Sexual violence can also occur in military or prison systems, regardless of the race or gender of the victim.

Sexual violence can have an impact on your physical and mental health.

Physical symptoms

Quincee Gideon, PsyD, a psychologist in Santa Monica, Calif., and founder of Woven Together Trauma Therapy, explains that our bodies are prepared to have an intense physiological response (fight, flight, or freeze reaction) to pain and trauma in order to survive.

“The body goes into a state of fighting the aggressor, fleeing the scene, freezing and waiting for the threat to pass, or engaging with the aggressor to try to create a better outcome,” Gideon explains.

According to Gideon, the most common physical symptoms can include:

  • fear of touch
  • increased heart rate or sweat response
  • increased startle response
  • pelvic floor problems
  • restlessness or psychomotor latency

Psychological symptoms

Nicole Prause, PhD, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist who specializes in the impact of sexual violence and trauma, explains that the mental health effects of abuse and sexual assault can range from immediate trauma and stress to delayed.

“The nature of the abuse and the environment in which it occurs has a huge impact on how such abuse is likely to impact the person,” she says. “Abuse that includes experiencing physical pain, and when reporting to authorities is not believed, is much more likely to develop into a psychological disorder.”

Common psychological symptoms include:

If you are experiencing violence or sexual assault now or in the past, there are things you can do to help yourself cope.

If this is an emergency, consider getting help right away

If you have been physically injured, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention or an emergency room. You may also need to report the act to the police.

The police and a doctor can help you report the violence or assault and help you get documents. This will be important to have if you plan to file a fee.

If you aren’t comfortable going to the emergency room, talking to a healthcare professional, or calling the police, consider contacting a trusted friend or confidante.

Talking with someone you trust could help you decide your next steps.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 immediately.

Consider talking with a mental health professional

Whether it was years ago or yesterday, there are several ways a mental health professional can help you cope with the mental health effects of violence and sexual assault.

They can help you deal with your feelings and learn new coping skills. You can discuss ways to improve your sleep and deal with flashbacks or memories of the trauma.

If your symptoms start to negatively impact your daily life, they may recommend medication to help reduce or manage them. Different types of therapy can be helpful, including:


Research support social support, including community or online support and group therapy as an effective coping tool for victims of sexual violence.

Gideon says that social support helps victims of sexual violence find safe communities and meaningful support systems with which to engage in the aftermath of sexual trauma, which can be especially difficult for survivors.

“Some survivors may try to hide or avoid reminders of their trauma, and social engagement can seem like a big threat to the triggers,” says Gideon. “Group therapy is sometimes a way for trauma survivors to feel connected to others while knowing they are in the company of others who ‘get it’. ”

Financial ressources

Gideon says many survivors of sexual assault may need extended periods of time to heal and recover, which can have a financial impact.

“Financial resources can be a game-changer for someone who needs a break while they try to heal from their trauma,” says Gideon.

Some financial resources may be available in your area. The US Department of Justice offers several grant programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 to assist survivors of sexual assault across the United States.

Other resources

If you’ve experienced some form of sexual violence, here are some organizations you can call for help and support:

For survivors of sexual assault, the road to recovery is not easy. But with the right tools, emotional support, and the help of medical professionals, you can begin to heal from the trauma.

Sexual violence can happen to anyone. No one deserves it. Sexual violence is not your fault and you are in no way responsible for what happened to you.

To help prevent sexual violence, raising awareness and providing adequate sex education to youth and young adults could be a good place to start.

In cases of sexual violence, mental health professionals can work with survivors to provide them with tools and strategies to deal with flashbacks or feelings of guilt and shame and help them deal with the mental health effects of the survivors. sexual trauma.


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