Understanding Sexual Trauma
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.
There are numerous myths about sexual trauma, most of which are rooted in and perpetuated by rape culture. It's important to replace these myths with truth.
MYTH: sexual trauma is rare
FACT: Sexual trauma is more prevalent than people like to believe.
Every 2 minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 6 men are sexually abused by the time they reach the age of eighteen.
MYTH: sexual trauma incidents occur at night, in remote places, by strangers.
FACT: The reality is that sexual trauma can occur anywhere at any time and is usually committed by trusted, valued members of the victim's life. Abusers are parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, babysitters, clergy, etc. 75% to 90% of victims somehow know their abuser.
Sexual trauma also occurs across all statuses: class (rich or poor), race (white, black, spanish, etc), gender (male, female, trans), educational levels (no diploma, HS diploma, higher education, etc.).
MYTH: it's the victim's fault
FACT: It is NEVER the victim's fault. It was the abuser who chose to abuse. No one ever asks for or deserves sexual trauma.
MYTH: accusations are usually lies
FACT: Only an estimated 1% to 4% of reported cases are false -- this is consistent for false reporting rates for other felony crimes. Most of these cases are still in unhealthy situations as well.
MYTH: sexual trauma is motivated by uncontrollable sexual desire
FACT: Sexual trauma is more about power and control than it is sexual desire.
A weapon is used in 11% of cases. Personal weapons are used against victims in 2 out of 3 cases.
MYTH: sexual trauma is easy to get over and deal with
FACT: "One study monitored Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms among women who were raped for the first two weeks after the rape and found that 94 percent of those women experienced symptoms of PTSD during that time. Additionally, 30 percent of the studied group reported PTSD symptoms nine months later. According to the National Women’s Study, about 33 percent of rape victims develop PTSD at some point during their lifetime."
65% of people with PTSD have a co-occuring substance use disorder and 1 out of 3 people seeking treatment for substance use disorders have PTSD. Even if a victim doesn't develop or have PTSD, many victims turn to negative coping mechanisms, such as alcohol or drugs.
The fact is clear: dealing with sexual trauma is difficult.
MYTH: it shouldn't matter since the abused get justice
FACT: Out of every 1,000 cases: 99% of abusers walk free, only 6% of reports lead to arrest, and only .7% lead to a felony conviction. Perpetrators of sexual trauma are less likely to go to prison than other criminals. 90% of all cases are never reported to the police.
Information derived from: iamonevoice.org; rainn.org; oaesv.org; d2l.org ; drugrehab.com