Sexual trauma is an all-encompassing term. Trauma refers to the emotional response. While not every victim will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other chronic psychological disorders, victims go through a very personal, individualized state of trauma during and/or after a sexual trauma event. Sexual trauma is also centered on the victim.
Words hold meaning and whether good or bad, paint a picture in our minds. Let’s play a game.
For the list of words below, comment what picture is painted in your mind. People think differently so I’m sure there will be some unique comments.
3. Smiley Face
6. Weeping Willow
When you think of CEO you might think of a man in a business suit. An apple almost always looks red in my mind. And a Smiley Face was a yellow circle with two circles for eyes and a U for the mouth. The problem with associations is that sometimes they skew your perspective. A CEO doesn’t have to be male, apples have variety in color, and there are several types of Smiley Faces.
To me sexual trauma is to sexual violence as emoji is to smiley face or tree is to weeping willow. It doesn’t exclude.
Sexual violence paints the picture of, well violence. I think of overall cruelty aligned with physical force, a harsh struggle, bruises, bleeding, fists. Drawn out. Weapons. Fighting.
Sexual assault paints a similar picture of pushing, theft, bruises. One time. Dark alleys. Late Nights.
Sexual abuse paints a victim that’s weak and cowering. Frequent. Families and children.
These terms turn to the perpetrator performing an act against a victim; it’s about their act.
Sexual trauma paints life-altering event(s). It’s not subdued to categories that box in the victim.
I think of the victim first and how the experience affects him/her.
So I use sexual trauma when referring to survivors because our differences in stories shouldn’t make us so different after all. We aren’t alone in our survivor stories. Trauma does just that – it unites persons with unique stories of a sexual act or acts performed against them. Let’s create a dialogue that is victim-focused and community-centered.
What terms do you prefer to paint your story with?
Sexual Trauma encompasses any experience in which a sexual act is performed against someone's will through the use of coercive, abusive, and/or manipulative means. Sexual Trauma can be many things, such as sexual harassment; rape or other forced acts that includes oral, anal, or vaginal penetration; unwanted touching, kissing or fondling; forcing to look at pornographic material; and threat of harm if a sexual act is not performed. Other terms synonymous to sexual trauma are sexual violence, sexual assault, and sexual abuse.
This definition and more facts can be found at weareunquiet.org/myths-and-facts