Sexual Abuse on Sexuality: How might it effect you?

sex therapy & relationships-2
Sexual Abuse
Sexual Abuse

Survivors of sexual abuse are forced to cope with the trauma of their situation in myriad ways. Personal insecurities, shame surrounding the assault, fear of a future attack—these are all issues that become real to the sexual assault victim. However, the effects of sexual assault are not always so clear. There are some situations in which the survivor of sexual abuse will internalize the trauma, and the assault will have long-term repercussions on their own sexuality and sexual health.

Understanding Sexual Abuse

There is a wide spectrum of sexual abuse, but that spectrum doesn’t dictate the harmful effects that the abuse may have on the individual. Rape is rape; and whether the victim of the assault was familiar with the perpetrator or not, the assault will likely be devastating to the individual.

Sexual assault occurs in the home, in the work place, in bars, in cars and just about anywhere else in public. When sexual abuse does occur, the effects could last permanently.

Rape is not the only form of sexual abuse there is. Sexual harassment, “date” rape and other forms of assault that are often looked at as “lesser” crimes can have just as much of an effect on the individual—especially when that individual is young. Coming to terms with one’s own sexuality following an assault of any kind can be troubling. For this reason, it is important for the victim as well as the loved one’s of any sexual assault victim to understand the potential effects of sexual assault, and to take as many steps as possible to prevent the assault from happening.

Sexual Abuse and Sexuality

Sexual abuse has a rippling effect on one’s sexuality. A person’s sexuality helps to define who they are in many ways by dictating to whom you are attracted to, to whom you choose to spend your time with and make commitments to, and even to the larger life decisions including marriage and children.

It is incredible the ways that a single instance of sexual trauma can interfere with an individuals life goals and interests. The person who was assaulted will often experience such intense emotions surrounding future sexual experiences that they may shun further intimacy and have deeply conflicted feelings about their own sexuality.

It is not uncommon for changes in one’s sexuality to develop following sexual abuse or trauma. Asexuality refers to the sexual preference to avoid sexual intercourse altogether. According to collected research, less than one percent of the total population consider themselves to be asexual. Of those, the majority who do fall into this demographic report having experienced some sort of sexual trauma in their life. This suggests that many people who experience sexual abuse turn away from their own sexuality altogether. The trauma of their assault creates negative associations that the victim then attributes to all sexual experiences, and this causes the individual to withdraw from sexual intimacy as a whole. This is not ideal for the victim, as it shows inefficiency in the ability to heal following sexual abuse.

Other ways that sexual abuse may affect an individual’s sexuality include:

  • Sexually transmitted disease that may cause pain during intercourse
  • Promiscuity
  • Inability or lack of desire to commit in a sexual relationship
  • Lack of desire to engage in sexual activity
  • Homosexuality

It should be noted that homosexuality is not a common symptom of sexual abuse, and is typically only evident in situations where chronic abuse was present, such as during the early childhood and adolescent years.

Life After Sexual Assault

It is not uncommon for a survivor of sexual assault to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition in which the individual is plagued by flashbacks, irrational fear and anxiety surrounding the trauma of their past. When this develops, it is common for the severe fear and anxiety to stifle new relationships and for the individual to experience social setbacks that may in fact create lasting effects on their own sexuality.

An individuals’ sexuality is an intensely private subject, but one that should be addressed more often—especially among survivors of sexual assault. It is important for those who care for a survivor to remember that recalling the events of a sexual assault is likely painful for the individual, and discussing a person’s sexuality in general is not something that should be attempted by just anyone.

Sexual abuse can have a lasting impact on a person’s sexuality. Becoming more aware of the dangers of sexual assault can help prevent future occurrences of trauma from happening in the future.

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