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Know Somebody Who Has Been Sexually Abused? Here’s How You Can Help

| March 27, 2021, 06:20 PM

For many years, sexual assault has been a publicly shame-filled topic. With many people blaming and shaming the victim, especially when the allegations are made several years later, it is understandable that victims tend to want to remain quiet and move on with their lives as quickly as possible.

Sexual abuse is a horrific experience, but it can become terrifying when those around the victim do not believe them, or try to undermine the severity of what happened. But before you know what you can do if you believe someone you know has been sexually assaulted, first  it is crucial to know what is sexual assault.

What is sexual assault?

Simply put, sexual assault occurs when consent is not granted by one party to participate in any sexual activity or contact. Regardless of the use of violence, a sexual perpetrator uses manipulation, coercion, and persuasion to get their way sexually and in doing so, they create a trauma victim. This individual, despite not giving permission to the offending party, has had to endure their body being touched, caressed, penetrated, and violated against their will.

Sexual abuse is a crime, it is an extremely serious matter, and it should be addressed with urgency. Though the time since the incident may have passed to swab for a perpetrator’s DNA, seeking medical help is critical. Doctors can support your physical needs and concerns, as well as address queries the victim may have that relate to STD (sexually-transmitted disease), HIV, and internal reproductive injury.

Counselling and other psychological support are available to victims who are feeling shame, guilt, or even embarrassment for being in this position. But, it should always be kept in mind that the victim did not cause the assault and abuse. The sexual abuse survivor has experienced a violation that was not their fault. Post-trauma, what you can do is reclaim your power and take ownership for healing from the consequences of this major abuse of power.

Impact on the victim

Being a victim of sexual assault can damage your sense of worth and your psychological and physical safety – within your home, your relationships, and perhaps a violated trust in people in general. However invisible the consequences of sexual assault may appear to those who don’t know what happened, the havoc that it can cause in a victim’s life has a far-reaching impact.

Here are only some of the symptoms or conditions significantly exacerbated by the  experience of sexual assault:

  • internalized stigma, shame, mental anguish, and depression
  • anxiety or the development of a stress disorder, such as PTSD
  • alcohol or drug addiction to numb and help cope with the trauma
  • dysfunctional relationships and an increased tolerance for abuse
  • disordered (out-of-control) eating or working – compulsion or restriction
  • lower self-worth and insecure self-esteem

If someone you know is displaying any of these symptoms, they might want to consider seeking professional help.

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Know where to stand

In addition to seeking emotional support, it is crucial that the victim understand their rights. Especially when it comes to a criminal matter, such as sexual assault and/or rape, victims have the right to a fair hearing, remain anonymous during a criminal proceeding, and if you qualify and the case is filed, you may have the right to compensation through the Victims of Crime Fund.

Get the support you deserve

Seeking help can be intimidating, but trained professionals are geared to help support you throughout your process of healing.  A Hamparyan injury lawyer explains that though psychological wellbeing is essential, one must consider the legal implications of the trauma. Is the perpetrator continuing to assault other individuals? Does the victim know their rights to claim compensation? You will likely have many unanswered questions.

Contact a professional

By contacting a legal expert (among others), the victim can access policies, case support, and financial compensation that would otherwise not be available. The best way forward is to contact a personal injury expert in your state. They can assist in receiving specialized casework. For example, did you know that some lawyers are specifically trained to tend to victims of school, youth, and religious organization sexual abuse? Get a referral for experts who understand your case and are willing to support you throughout your path to seeking justice.

If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, it is best that they seek professional intervention. The victim needs to be ready to share their story, even if it remains anonymous and confidential. Giving an honest account of the event, with as much detail as possible, will give your case a greater chance of winning. However, revisiting the trauma will be enormously triggering. And if the victim is not psychologically supported, there may be serious repercussions in delving uncontained into the trauma. Encourage the victim to reach out, it may save their lives.

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Category: Local News, NEWS

About the Author - Stephanie Maris

Stefanie is a local blogger and social media content marketer from Maryland and most recently a wife and a mother. She has an unhealthy obsession with puns, sarcasm and caffeinated beverages.

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