What is Sexual Trauma?
Sexual trauma can be many things. It can be one event or a series of events that may escalate over time. It can be sexual harassment, rape, inappropriate touching, being pressured to perform or engage in sexual activity or threat of harm if you do not do a sexual act. Many people think that sexual trauma has to be violent to be traumatic, but in fact, a majority of sexual assaults that occur do not have significant violent behavior, but instead are done with a threat of harm or embarrassment for the individual involved. Sexual trauma is “traumatic” when the person involved feels a sense of fear, helplessness, injury or threat of injury. The level of perceived threat and traumatic reaction to that threat is very individual and almost impossible to anticipate. One person may react far differently than another despite very similar situations.
What are the common reactions?
A person’s response to sexual trauma will change as time passes. It is common to have feelings of fear, grief, sadness, and physical feelings of nausea, dizziness, changes in appetite, and changes in sleep patterns. Reactions to the sexual trauma can last for weeks to months before you start to feel
Cognitive (Problems With Thinking or Concentration)
Shortened attention span
Difficulty making decisions
Fear of harm to self and/or others
Uncertainty of feelings
Gastro-intestinal problems (diarrhea, constipation, change in hunger/appetite)
Rapid heart rate
Grinding of teeth
Arguments with friends and/or loved ones
Withdrawal from others and/or normal activities
Increased or decreased sleep
Increased or decreased eating
Change in sexual desire or functioning
Increase in substance use (smoking, drugs, alcohol)
It’s helpful to know that all of these symptoms are normal responses to an abnormal event. However, if you feel like any of these are a problem for you or are disrupting your life, it is important for you to seek help for therapy so that you can get help and guidance dealing with these problems. Working on trauma issues can be difficult and if you already feel out of control or are hurting yourself, it is important to work on these issues before working on the trauma.
Again, it is important that you get the help you need. The sooner you get help and address your issues, the faster to the road of healing and recovery. It is difficult to go through such a traumatic event, and you shouldn’t have to do it alone. There are effective treatments for trauma and a well-trained professional can help you get back to yourself again.