Possible Effects of Sexual Violence
The way a woman is affected by experiences of sexual violence will depend on other experiences in her life and how much support she has.
Every individual can feel differently about her experiences.
Examples of feelings may include:
- Loss of control
- Lack of trust
Often survivors of sexual violence try to get on with their lives by blocking out their experiences.
This doesn’t always work and distress comes out in many ways including physical illnesses, depressed feelings, lack of self-respect, low self-esteem, nightmares, and difficulty in concentrating, affecting her ability to study or work effectively.
Survivors are also more likely to be involved in truancy, criminal activity, self-harm, eating disorders, and alcohol or drug misuse.
It can be difficult to make or keep healthy relationships, which adds to the survivor’s distress as they feel alone, unsupported by friends and they may experience more sexual violence from their partner, which may result in unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted illnesses.
This can lead to a cycle of low self-esteem - feeling worthless and powerless about what happens, having to cope with more negative experiences, and so feeling even more worthless. It is very easy to slip into a downward spiral of low self-esteem.
Women can feel overwhelmed by their emotions, especially when they have no one to talk to and no way of expressing their feelings in a safe way.
They may try to numb out the feelings by minimising or denying what happened, or by trying to make sense of it in a way that gives them some control e.g. saying that it happened because of something they did.
This can lead to a woman feeling depressed, suicidal or ‘mad’ so they then try to find a way of controlling how they think or feel by using drugs, alcohol, food or self-harming behaviours as a way of escaping horrible thoughts and feelings.
Although they may feel better for a short while, these coping strategies can bring a new set of difficulties and can soon become a habit, an addiction, or a lifeline that the woman cannot imagine living without. This may leave them feeling more ashamed, alone and trapped in a hopeless situation.
Our specialist services offer help to women who have experienced sexual violence and their supporters.