How sexual abuse affects the brain? It can lead to several adverse effects on the victim's mental health. It not only causes physical pain and hurt but also has a significant impact on mental health. Here's how sexual abuse can affect mental health.

What is sexual abuse/harassment?

Rigorous intimidation or unwelcome sexual advances demands sexual favors, which could be verbal or physical, including the inappropriate promise of reinforcements in exchange for sexual favors. It is known as sexual abuse or harassment. Sexual harassment is illegal by law. This form of harassment could happen in person or online. It affects the victim in several states. Each victim could react to it in their way. Men, as well as women, could be victims of this horrific crime.

What does sexual abuse entail?

Sexual abuse can include:

  1. Inappropriate physical contact without your consent.

  2. Inappropriate comments directed at you that have a sexual meaning.

  3. Staring, leering, and stalking.

  4. Requesting for sexual favors.

  5. Discrediting you with sexual comments.

Types of sexual abuse and assault

Women are significant victims of sexual assault. This term is an umbrella that shelters several crimes. These include:

  1. Child molestation: This is sexually abusing a child. Most children who are victims of this crime do not even understand what is happening to them and thus do not fight back. Fondling and demanding sexual favors from children constitute child molestation.

  2. Rape: Coerced sexual contact without one's consent is rape. Despite many states limiting their definition of rape to forcible sexual intercourse, other forms of sexual contact can permanently harm the victim and criminal activity.

  3. Incest: Sexual contact between family members or people that one is related to is incest. It is also to be a taboo in many cultures. Most incest victims are children. But though the reports of it are less frequent, the incest survivors are higher.

  4. Sexual abuse without physical contact: Cracking inappropriate sexual jokes and comments, posting nude pictures of someone without their consent, sexual texts and messages all fall under this category.

Sexual harassment can take place at any place and at any point in time. But there are laws to protect one from this illegal activity. It has a drastic effect on the victim's mental health. Their behavior can alter due to traumatic experiences.

How can sexual abuse affect one's mental health?

After such a traumatic experience, the victim can quickly lose themselves. Feelings of guilt, shame, terror, pain, etc., will be haunting them. Such can be an association between sex and mental health apart from its positive impact on the psyche. The trauma could have any number of adverse effects on the survivors' mental health.

They could develop:

  1. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): The horrific event may have a lasting impact on the victim. Re-experiencing the whole trauma repeatedly through nightmares, hallucinations, and flashbacks could occur so that the patient may lose track of his/her surroundings. The feeling of numbness and avoidance of people and places that remind them of the trauma are common after-effects.

  2. Depression: Loss of mood or depressed feelings in life or activities which cause significant declension in daily life could be another adverse effect. It could also affect the victim's sense of self-worth. It could have a long and lasting impact on the survivor's mind.

  3. Personality fluctuations: Sexual abuse can result in borderline personality disorder. It affects how one feels and thinks about places, people, and themselves, causing functionality problems in everyday life. A pattern of unstable relationships and the inability to contain one's emotions are common symptoms.

  4. Addiction: To cope with this horrific incident, many victims get addicted to several drugs or alcohol. It helps them numb the pain of the incident. It is their way to forget the experience that caused them harm. Although it is helpful from one point of view, this leads to a whole new set of side-effects and problems.

  5. Anxiety: The leading cause of anxiety and depression is a traumatic incident. It is the body's natural response to stress. The fear of apprehension of the future haunts the victim. Anxious individuals perceive it as stressful and dangerous.

  6. Attachment issues: Forming healthy relationships with people would be very hard for the victims. Establishing trust in another person would be challenging. They would struggle with intimacy or be overly eager to form relationships.

Sexual abuse leaves physical and psychological scars. It has long-lasting impacts on the victims. It also adversely affects their health. It could become a scar that would never heal. Sexual abuse is a negative trigger, and something the victim could always remember and move on. Some even struggle with fertility issues and sexual dysfunction. Others may develop chronic pain without any physical cause. The victim can also be affected by STD's. Sexual abuse in relationships can be more complicated and difficult to deal with.

How to tackle mental health issues after sexual abuse?

Needing care after such a traumatic event does not make one weak. It makes the survivor stronger for accepting it and asking for help. But for doing so, they should have mental health awareness. People cope with trauma in many different ways. One can seek help freely without being judged. Here are a few ways to seek help:

  1. Turn to others for support or join a support group.

  2. Look after yourself and make yourself your priority.

  3. Seek professional help (therapy).

Hence, this is how sexual abuse affects the brain. Pass on this knowledge and spread literacy this sexual abuse awareness month.