Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age or sexuality.
Sexual violence and abuse is any behaviour of a sexual nature which is unwanted and takes place without consent or understanding. It includes acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic.
In some cases, cultural values create extra stigma for people who report. These factors can also prevent survivors from seeking mental health treatment. For example men who experience sexual violence can face severe stigma, and many people believe men cannot possibly be victims of rape. Sexual crimes in the LGBTQ+ community are often not reported – survivors may fear revealing their gender identity or sexual orientation to others. They may not trust the legal system to protect them. Survivors could also fear inciting further violence. Others may fear “betraying” their family or community by disclosing personal information.
Survivors often report feelings such as fear shame and guilt. Many blame themselves for the abuse and violence and are at risk of experiencing:
- Depression: Feelings of hopelessness or despair, reduced self-worth. These feelings may be mild and fleeting, or they can be intense and long-lasting.
- Anxiety: Survivors may fear the attack could happen again. Anxiety can create a loop of thinking that can become quite distorted, interrupting sleep patterns and normal life. Some may experience panic attacks. Others may develop agoraphobia and become afraid to leave their homes.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Someone who survived domestic abuse and sexual violence may experience intense memories of the abuse. In some cases, flashbacks may be so disruptive they cause a survivor to lose track of surroundings.
- Attachment issues: Survivors may find it challenging to form healthy attachments with others. This is especially true among children who have been abused. Adults who were abused as children may have insecure attachment patterns. They could struggle with intimacy or be too eager to form close attachments.
- Addiction: Research suggests abuse survivors are 26 times more likely to use drugs. Drugs and alcohol can help numb the pain of abuse, but can then in turn lead to other problems.
Therapy offers a safe, private and confidential place to get help without judgement. You do not have to handle your problems alone.
Our therapists have a range of skills and specialities – please read each of our profiles to find out more.