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Article | Healing Sexual Trauma | Effects of Sexual Trauma

Healing Articles > Sexual Abuse and Rape

 

Sexual trauma tends to go far deeper than any other form and without sufficient help, can have a profound impact on the body, mind and spirit.

 
 
Effects of sexual trauma
Our bodies are designed to become aroused by physical stimulation, but it causes conflict when emotionally the person is suffering from the experience of having their safety, trust and often their innocence betrayed even as the body responds as if this is acceptable. It may feel good physically but the victim understands on some level, no matter the age, that what they are experiencing is not right.
    
It is common for a belief to form that says they are at least partially at fault since the physical body was aroused by the experience. This does not mean that they liked it; these experiences are never emotional enjoyed since the person is not a willing and consenting participant; it is something that must be endured out of a need for survival. A big part of sexual enjoyment is the emotional aspect, and when this is in conflict with the physical, issues arise.
     
This internal conflict also tends to create self-blame on the part of the victim for the actions of the perpetrator as if they, the recipient, were the cause for what happened, and this can produce so much more harm as time passes. Further, do to the emotional results, they usually start believing that if they had done something different, acted differently, dressed differently, looked different… they could have changed the actions of another.
    
Where we see evidence of this mindset is when a little girl is, for example, told how beautiful she is while the offender is molesting her, and she starts to believe that if she wasn’t beautiful, then this wouldn’t be happening to her. As a result, she may go out of her way to hide her beauty by wearing baggy clothes, lots of make-up, taking poor care of herself physically and emotionally, and maybe going as far as self mutilation, which can also be a form of self-punishment for her self-blame. These beliefs result in an extremely poor self-image, destroying her self-esteem and creating the possibility of self-loathing.
    
     

Coping mechanisms and strategies

As stated previously, sexual trauma is something that is endured while it is occurring out of a need for survival. The human psyche does its best to find ways of coping during and after; some of these are:
     

  • Emotionally distancing oneself from experience – going into own world during

  • Emotionally compartmentalize experience afterwards as if it never happened

  • Pretending to want it and/or enjoy it in hopes it will end sooner

  • Trying to make oneself unappealing so it won’t happen again

  • Fight back and/or get away

      

  
Potential long-term effects if left unresolved
The long-term effects can include:

  • self-mutilation or harm
  • associating love with sexual use of their body
  • abusive relationships
  • dysfunctional relationships
  • becoming a perpetrator themselves
  • anger issues
  • chronic depression
  • manic-depressive disorder
  • risky behavior particularly sexual
  • low self-esteem
  • low self-image
  • weight gain that is hard to lose
  • addiction(s)
  • phobias
  • sexual dysfunction
  • suicide

      
Effect on males
I have chosen to include this special section because of the stigma that comes from being a male victim of a sexual assault.
        
Males are thought to always want it and so they can’t possibly be a victim. This belief is particularly prevalent in situations where an older female molests or rapes a young teen. While it is true that some males do or have fantasized about having a sexual experience with an older woman, there is a huge difference between a fantasy and reality.
      
The effects of molest or rape are compounded when he takes on societies perspective and questions his own feelings around the experience(s). He may have liked the idea at first, after all here is this older woman who is interested in him, but after the fact, while it may have felt good physically, he knows on some level that what was experienced was not right. The guilt that is felt around this can be huge for these kids. They thought it would be great, it may have been a fantasy come true on the surface, but then he realizes that an adult took advantage of him, a person in authority that should have known better.
         
      

How does he reconcile his feelings with what society in general believes?

    
     
The same feelings of guilt, shame, betrayal, self-blame and sense of responsibility for the actions of another that affect a female also can be found within the male. It is important that this is understood and acknowledged for the sake of the victim.
     
The belief that because he is a male it is okay must be shed. We are doing these people and ourselves a great disservice. This becomes self-evident when you realize that most sexual perpetrators are males who where raped or molested themselves. Males need help just as much as any female does, maybe even more so when you take into account the stigma previously mentioned.
    
In cases of male-on-male sodomy, he too experiences what a female does by having a male invade a most personal place by force, those feelings of having an uninvited part of another human within him and being helpless to stop it, and the sense that he has lost all right of say over what goes into his body. Imagine what all this does to his psyche.    
    
    
Next:  Healing Victim Trauma - Becoming a Survivor     Followed by:  Healing Parent or Partner
      
     

       

         
Rev. Christopher StandingBear RMT specializes in helping clients release their emotional attachment to the past through his work as a Trauma Release Coach™ at Bearfoot Healing. He draws upon his own experiences and study of human behavioral psychology, his intuition, connection with Divine Guidance and the work he does with clients using Energy Medicine and Energy Psychology to write articles that will empower others in their personal healing.
      
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