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