Long after it takes place, sexual assault affects women’s well being in their mid-life, manifesting as health issues. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine has found that women with a history of sexual assault had significantly higher odds of clinically significant depressive symptoms, anxiety and poor sleep than women without this history. With a conversation underway on social media, as to how sexual crimes affect women, this is a very important finding.

This study is proof that women bear long-term consequences of a sexual assault. The psychological baggage which accumulates due to that trauma eventually ends up taking a toll on their health. It also sheds light on the importance of healing among sexual assault survivors. While wounds may heal, the mind doesn’t let survivors forget their ordeal. Over the time all the pent-up frustration, anger, fear, disgust and even guilt begin to show up as health issues.

Women in the study who reported prior sexual assault were three times more likely to experience depression and twice as likely to have elevated anxiety than women without a history of sexual trauma.

So, the next time you come across someone who thinks that women exaggerate trauma of a sexual assault, perhaps shove these figures in their faces. We have long been neglecting the long-term impacts of sexual crimes. This has only led to trivialisation of the issue, especially among perpetrators, who do not think they have committed a big crime.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • A study has found that women with a history of sexual assault had significantly higher odds of suffering from depression, anxiety and poor sleep.
  • We have long been neglecting the long-term impacts of sexual crimes. This has only led to trivialisation of the issue.
  • This study can be used to create awareness among men about the impact of sexual crimes.

This study can be used to create awareness among men about the impacts of sexual crimes. It can be used to educate everyone to stop trivialising grievances of assault survivors, even if the incident happened years or even decades ago.  The feeling of humiliation and anger that your consent was not respected never leaves you. So while most assault victims may move on, physically, take up new jobs, start a family, or grow old, that feeling keeps nudging their consciousness.

This statistics will hopefully hammer the gravity of sexual crimes in male brains. It will make them question the glamourisation of sexual aggression.

These findings should also urge our society to commit with more sincerity to end sexual violence against women. If a crime can potentially affect the health of half the world’s population on a long-term basis, then it surely needs our immediate attention. We need support groups and policies which help sexual assault survivors cope better with trauma. We also need an open-minded approach to seeking therapy and counselling. Seeking professional help for mental health issues still remains a big taboo for us. It prevents survivors from reaching out for help. With help from trained professionals, it will become much easier for them to tackle the aftermath of their trauma.

If our approach to sexual assault is restricted to merely getting justice for survivors, then we are on the wrong track. Rehabilitation of survivors in the society and helping them return to normality is also a part of our duty towards them. This study is a cue for us to pull up our sleeves and commit to helping sexual assault survivors adjust better to a life post a traumatic experience, which forever risks the chances of having a normal and healthy life.

Picture Credit:  NY Times

Also Read : Did Donald Trump Ask Us To Protect Male Privilege Over Sexual Safety?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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