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Mental Mondays: 6 Effects Of Sexual Assault On Mental Health


A n unwelcome touch, coerced to submission, or battered to submission. Whatever the scenario, sexual assault occurs in a million and one ways yet the outcome for the victims are very much similar: long lasting emotional and psychological damage. What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault affects each victim differently because everyone reacts to trauma differently. While some may become emotionally unstable, others may become distrusting and/or aggressive, while some may become mentally unstable from such a devastating experience. No matter the outcome, one thing is sure, sexual assault affects the victim’s mental health negatively. Quotes on sexual assault.

“Making someone feel obligated, pressured or forced into doing something of a sexual nature that they don’t want to is sexual coercion. This includes persistent attempts at sexual contact when the person has already refused you. Nobody owes you sex, ever; and no means no, always.”

― Miya Yamanouchia

What is sexual assault?

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse

This might seem obvious but it’s shocking to know that many people, especially men, do not know what constitutes sexual assault. Sexual assault includes but is not limited to;

  • Any form of unwanted sexual touching.
  • Forcing a person to carry out sexual acts like oral sex, masturbation with or without penetration.
  • Rape: This could occur either through direct violence and coercion to have sex against a person’s will or the person might be drugged/knocked unconscious and taken advantage of. Rape could occur through forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration. What is sexual assault?

In plain English, sexual assault is an act in which a person intentionally sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her will. It is a form of sexual violence, which includes rape, groping, child sexual abuse or the torture of a person in a sexual manner. Quotes on sexual assault.

Sexual assault is very common and irrespective of the awareness being raised against it, it’s still quite prevalent. According to the National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted). While about 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. But a lot of people do not report the case.

Why do people shy away from reporting sexual abuse?

  • Stigma: We have come a long way but we still have a lot to cover when it comes to sexual assault. There’s still a lot of stigma attached to victims of sexual assault which is why many shy away from reporting, allowing perpetrators to walk around free.
  • The fear of being blamed for being abused: Questions like, “what were you wearing?” “What were you doing there at such a time?” “What did you do?” seek to wrongly blame the victims for their fate.
  • The fear of being harmed by the predator.

“Standing behind predators makes prey of us all.”

~ DaShanne Stokes

Contrary to whatever belief is out there, sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. Perpetrators sexually assault victims “just because they can.”

Reports have shown that sexual assault happens more with someone the victim already knows and seemingly trusts than a stranger, hence they are usually caught off guard. That’s why it is hard to teach victims how to prevent abuse. The twist is, no one really thinks they’ll be abused by their trusted relatives and/or friends.

Here are some effects of sexual assault on mental health…

#1. Paranoia



When a person is violated sexually, they lose trust and become distrusting and paranoid. To the abuser, it’s just a few moments of pleasure but to the victim, it’s a lifetime of looking behind their back hoping it doesn’t happen again and being so stuck in that occurrence that life loses its essence. What is sexual assault?

#2. Substance abuse



There’s a common link between substance abuse and sexual assault. When a victim can’t seem to heal or get past the experience, they tend to channel the pain to drugs for solace and escapism. This seems to help them relax and temporarily forget their misery but soon enough it becomes a harmful addiction and that becomes another problem a victim needs to deal with. How complicated could this get?

#3. Unhealthy relationships

A victim of sexual abuse might not be able to have stable relationships with the opposite sex due to mistrust or a wall of defense they put up to avoid being hurt, violated, and/or taken advantage of. Even in the case where a victim enters a relationship, chances are high on toxicity because they end up getting hurt or hurting their partner. Like they say “hurting people, hurt people”.

#4. Depression and anxiety

Depression sexual assault

Depression sexual assault

Depression seems to be on the lips of everyone and as a result, the consequences might have been watered down, this doesn’t make its effect less impactful. Most often than not, a victim of sexual abuse becomes depressed and suffers from anxiety. This could lead to different levels of psychotic behavior and might even result in suicide especially for rape victims. Quotes on sexual assault.

You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage.

~ Alex Elle

#5. Deterioration of physical health

It’s a matter of time before the effect of sexual assault starts to tell on the physical health as well. While this doesn’t directly address mental health, there’s a strong link between the two. Once a victim notices a health issue, anxiety sets in and they’re caught up in this seemingly unending toxic cycle.

#6. Sexuality confusion

Sexuality confusion sexual assault

Sexuality confusion sexual assault

Sexual abuse befuddles a victim leaving them confused about their sexuality. Some victims start to breed resentment for the opposite sex and this colors their perception, as a result, they start tilting towards same-sex relationships. Also, for victims who were constantly abused by the same sex, this may lead to seeking out sexual encounters with the same sex subconsciously trying to suppress the guilt they felt initially. This might be a conscious effort to be strong and pretend the initial experience no longer gets to you so as not to hand over victory to the perpetrator(s). This is usually a personal lifelong battle that sticks long after the perpetrator has moved on.

In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens”. – Judith Lewis Herman. Quotes on sexual assault. What is sexual assault?

The above saying is one of the few reasons why victims would rather suffer in silence until their mental health deteriorates badly. Let’s change the narrative!

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