What is the impact of sexual abuse on physical and mental health?
Sexual abuse is such a traumatic experience, that it can cause multiple effects in all areas of a person’s life. Both physical, emotional, and mental health are negatively affected after this type of experience and these consequences can remain for many years in the life of the person.
It is also important to keep in mind that these repercussions may be greater if the traumatic events occur repeatedly and over a long period of time. Likewise, the fact that the aggressor is someone known and who previously had the victim’s trust and affection has an important influence.
Do not forget that sexual abuse does not always happen in the same way, it can present itself in different ways. Below, you will find some of the most common forms:
– Sexual assault.
– Sexual contact or touching without consent.
– Mouth-genital contact.
– Coercion to watch pornography.
– Exhibitionism without consent.
– Publication of intimate images without consent.
– Sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Don’t forget that all of these forms of abuse have short- and long-term consequences that can affect physical, mental, and emotional health.
Effects of sexual abuse on physical health
Although it is not the only one affected, the body is the first one to suffer sexual abuse, and where it is most evident, especially when the abuser uses physical violence. Below are some of the most frequent physical effects.
Physical injuries. Although physical violence is not always used by perpetrators of sexual abuse, physical injuries may occur on many occasions, often to the genital or anal area and other parts of the body.
Chronic health problems. Many survivors of sexual abuse report chronic pain, difficulty performing daily activities, headaches, pelvic pain, abdominal pain, and digestive disorders, among others.
Negative effects on sexual and reproductive health. In many cases, as a consequence of sexual abuse, the survivor may suffer sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and other types of infections. In the case of women, there is a high probability of suffering gynecological trauma such as: tearing of the vagina, fistulas, hemorrhages, ulcerations, and other genital lesions.
Unwanted pregnancy. Sexual activity without consent and without the use of condoms and contraceptive methods can often lead to unintended pregnancy.
Eating disorders. After an experience such as sexual abuse, the survivor’s relationship with his or her body and self-image is seriously affected and they are more vulnerable to Eating Disorders (ED).
Sleep disturbances. Sleep disturbances, insomnia, nightmares, and other sleep disorders can result from an experience of sexual abuse.
In all cases, it is essential to consult a physician to treat these disorders and prevent them from worsening due to a lack of timely treatment.
Mental health effects of sexual abuse
Suffering one or more events of sexual abuse undoubtedly has negative and lasting effects on the mental health of the person who suffers it. Below, you will find some of the effects derived from this traumatic experience.
– Anxiety disorders.
– Post-traumatic stress disorders.
– Drug and alcohol abuse.
– Borderline personality disorder.
– Eating disorders.
Additionally, survivors of early sexual abuse often display: self-deprecation, problems differentiating sexual behavior from affectionate behavior, difficulty setting boundaries and rejecting unwanted sexual advances, and are at increased risk for later sexual abuse.
You are not alone!
Even if you feel that you must face sexual abuse alone, do not forget that there will always be someone who can listen to you, be there for you, and support you in the process of overcoming abuse and initiating your healing process. Remember that this is a process that you cannot do by yourself, do not be afraid to seek the help of your trusted ones and from a mental health professional.
In the #YoDigoNoMas Movement, we provide you with a safe and trusted space to share your story and we offer tools to prevent more people from becoming victims of sexual abuse and to support those who are going through this painful experience. Learn more about our Movement and join our cause.