While sexual assault can be a difficult subject for victims, their families and the community in general to discuss, it is critical that we recognize and address what is a shockingly prevalent crime in our country and around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in five women in the U.S. is raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime.1 At our Denver mental health center, we provide assistance and support to survivors of sexual assault.
First observed in 2001 and building on sexual violence awareness efforts that began in the late 1970s in England, April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Events throughout the month seek to raise awareness of what sexual assault is, its prevalence and what can be done to prevent it.
Sexual Assault and Mental Health
Few crimes have greater potential to lead to long-term mental and emotional health issues than sexual assault. Survivors may deal with a whole host of thoughts and emotions that can plague them for an extended period, often for life. These include:
In many cases, sexual assault can lead to clinical conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders. For example, girls who are raped are approximately three times more likely to suffer from psychological disorders and over four times more likely to suffer from drug and alcohol abuse in adulthood.2 As many as 50-75 percent of women in substance abuse treatment programs are survivors of sexual violence.3
The process of healing from an assault and addressing these conditions is a difficult one, but with the love and support of family members, and the assistance of trained and compassionate mental health counselors like those at our Denver mental health center, it can be successful.
Sexual Assault Survivors: Much Stronger than They Know
While loved ones and mental health professionals can provide much-needed assistance to a victim of sexual assault, a survivor’s own inner strength is the most powerful healing force. Many aren’t even aware they have this strength, but they often discover and begin drawing on it to drive their recovery.
If you have been sexually assaulted, here are some things you can do to help yourself heal:
- Never lose sight of the fact that only your attacker alone is to blame for the assault.
- Continually remind yourself that any negative feelings you have about yourself are the result of the trauma you’ve suffered. They are not reality.
- Be persistent in countering feelings of helplessness and isolation with the knowledge that you have the power to move on and resources available to help you.
- Develop healthy strategies for dealing with flashbacks and distressing memories.
- Take time to reconnect to your body and your feelings.
- Focus on healthy eating and exercise, which will help heal your nervous system.
- Never hesitate to ask for support when you need it.
Here to Provide Help and Support to Sexual Assault Survivors
At our Denver mental health center, we encourage sexual assault survivors to get the support they need to restore their mental and emotional health by contacting Community Reach Center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area, including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.
- Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/sv-datasheet-a.pdf
- Kendler, Kenneth S., et al. Archives of General Psychiatry. Medical College of Virginia Commonwealth University, 2000.
- S. Public Health Service Office on Women’s Health.