Costs of Sexual Violence
The aftermath of sexual assault can be described as an "emotional tattoo," pain that always remains. Recovery requires working through an onslaught of disturbing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues. Victims often struggle with a perception that they are now "different" or not "normal." Their emotional trauma may include shock, denial, fear, anger, helplessness, disbelief, confusion, withdrawal, and guilt. After the initial crisis, victims may feel especially vulnerable, isolated, anxious, out of control, depressed, or defensive. As victims begin to recover, they may experience a series of different emotions that intrude and fade with varying intensity. Some of the common feelings include fear, anger, guilt, frustration, shame, and embarrassment.
Statistically, the emotional costs to victims can be broken down as follows:
- Betrayal: In 8 out of 10 rape cases, the victim knew the perpetrator.13
- Vulnerability: In a study of older female sexual abuse victims, 81 percent of the abuse was perpetrated by the victim's primary caregiver and 78 percent by family members, of whom 39 percent were sons.14
- Mental health issues: The chance that a woman will develop posttraumatic stress disorder after being raped is between 50 and 90 percent. Sexual assault also is closely associated with depression and anxiety disorders.15
In This Toolkit: Help Victims Heal