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Sexual Assault: Psychological, Emotional, and Physical Effects Can Be Devastating

Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.

Sadly, many of those victims – traumatized by the assault – are fearful of telling others. Rape, child sexual abuse, intimate partner sexual violence, and other sexual crimes have devastating psychological, emotional, and physical effects on victims that can last a lifetime.

This month marks the 20th Anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a movement that started to gain traction during the Civil Rights Era of the 1940s and 1950s. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, efforts during that time were championed by Black women and other minorities. Advocates like Rosa Parks worked at the intersections of race-based and gender-based violence, helping to heighten awareness of domestic and sexual violence. In fact, prior to her role in the Montgomery bus boycotts, Rosa Parks advocated for justice for survivors of sexual assault and worked with the NAACP investigating cases of rape of Black women.

By the early 2000s, the primary goal of SAAM was awareness — both raising visibility of the teal ribbon and the meaning behind it. The movement has since evolved to focus heavily on prevention, with education efforts in local communities, workplaces, and college campuses.

Statistics Don’t Tell the Full Story

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are highly underreported. Some of the reasons include a fear of retaliation, shame, and fear that people will not believe the accusations. The problem is especially prevalent in LGBTQ communities. Victims are often reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to service providers as it may mean facing future discrimination or denial of services.

The statistics we do have are alarming:

  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
  • About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
  • From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies found strong evidence indicating that 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
  • 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime compared to 35% of heterosexual women.
  • 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime compared to 29% of heterosexual men.


Getting Help

The good news is that there are several organizations dedicated to supporting victims of sexual assault. For example, Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) provide resources for those recovering from sexual violence, including tips for navigating the criminal justice system. The nonprofit also provides many safety and prevention tips, including how to respond if someone is pressuring you.

It’s important to note that if you experienced sexual violence, you are not at fault. And you should never feel shame about it. Keeping such a dark, painful experience to yourself could cause harmful physical and emotional health issues later in life. If reaching out to a health care professional seems too daunting, please consider confiding in at least one person you can trust, whether that is a relative or a friend.

New patients can call denova Collaborative Healthcare at 602-777-6337 for a free, 15-minute wellness consultation. You can also click here to make an appointment online. Remember, if you are experiencing a crisis, please call 911 immediately.

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Amanda Keenhold, LAC

Licensed Associate Counselor

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