Sexual abuse is also known as molestation. It is a form of abuse where a person sexually violates a person to exert their power over the other person. Follow this article to know the signs of sexual abuse in adults and what are the long term effects of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse or sex abuse is a form of abuse that a person whether they are a woman or a man faces through the hands of a person to gets pleasure in hurting in others. The abuser will physically restrain the person so they are unable to fight and then violate them sexually. Although both men and women have been a victim of sexual abuse but the percentage of women going through sex abuse or any other abuse is much higher than men.
According to WHO, 1 in 3 women that means around 736 million women have been subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of their partner or starngers. This sex abuse also includes Intimate Partner Violence – IPV. more than 35% of the women face sex abuse at the hands of their partner and also face physical/emotional abuse. According to a source 90% of the women are victims of sex abuse af adult rape.
Follow this article to learn more about the signs of sexual abuse in adults and what are the long term effects of sexual abuse.
Table of Contents
What is sexual abuse?
A sexual abuse or sex abuse is a physical molestation of a person through another person. An abuser will use sexual abuse to show their power and dominance. Sex abuse can include unwanted touching, kissing, or threatening someone to have sex with them. Most of the time sexual abuse is a result of intoxication but it is not necessary. An abuser doesn’t need alcohol or any other substance to exert their power over other people. They will do so regardless of the situation.
It is not necessary that a person only touches you inappropriately, sex abuse can also present itself if a person tries to show you explicit content or share some sex pictures with you without your consent. Children, teenagers, women, men, and homosexuals all of them face sex abuse. It is not a gender biased thing, anyone can be a victim of sex abuse. A person who suffers from sexual abuse can be subjected to diseases like chlamydia, HIV/STDs, vaginal infection, gonorrhea, hepatitis, and HPV.
Sexual abuse can leave long term effects on a person. It can give people nightmares and trauma. Most people go into depression and start getting anxiety. People will isolate themselves from the rest of the world, this may lead to suicidal thoughts and self harm. Although most of times people try to keep this private but surely there are signs that can make sexual abuse visible.
What are the signs of sexual abuse in adults?
Sexual abuse is a traumatic experience for the victims. Usually people don’t disclose that they have been sexually abused maybe because of the stigma that surrounds our society. But surely there are signs that can make the friends and family members of the victim’s pick that something is wrong. Some of the most prominent signs of sexual abuse in adults are as following.
- Itching or vaginal infection
- Nightmares or panic attacks
- Finding it difficult to carry on with your daily tasks
- Substance abuse
- Self harm
- Avoiding specific situations or places
Depression is one of the most prominent signs of someone who faced sexual abuse. The victim will face extreme depression and anxiety. Their brain will stop working, most of the time this depression can lead a person to self harm and suicidal thoughts. When the victim is unable to share their feelings with anyone then, their brain will get clouded with negative thoughts and this may lead them towards more mental health conditions.
The victim will close themselves from the whole world. They will completely isolate themselves and not go out anywhere. Most of time the victim will start thinking that no one is trustworthy and they might think that people will leave them once they get to know that they have been a victim of sexual abuse.
Itching or vaginal infection:
After the sexual abuse if a person is not treated immediately by the healthcare professionals then, the injuries and the torn hymen may cause vaginal infection and itching. It can also cause blood clots and excessive internal bleeding. If not treated properly, a person can get infected with HIV and STDs.
It is one of the most prominent physical sign of sexual abuse. The victim will have bruises on their entire body and maybe some fractures. When you ask them they might stall you saying that they feel on the bathroom floor but you know that it is far from the truth. The victim will have prominent bruises on their face, neck, hands, legs, and other body parts.
Nightmares or panic attacks:
A survivor of sexual abuse will face nightmares and panic attacks for a significant amount of time. They will be scared of being alone but won’t have the courage to tell someone what’s wrong with them. They will have nightmares about their abuse and the specific scene will start playing in their mind like a movie reminding them over and over again of the abuse. The victim will wake up screaming, sweating, or breathing heavily. They may start getting insomnia.
Finding it difficult to carry on with their daily tasks:
The victim will start falling into depression and anxiety. They will find it difficult to get themselves out of their bed. Even washing their face or combing their hair will look like a huge task. If they are someone who has to go and work then, it might get more difficult for them. They will have to go out but they will be distracted and fall behind on their tasks.
The victim of sexdual abuse may fall into the trap of substance abuse. As it provides a person a chance to numb their feelings and emotions for a while. They might get addicted to alcohol and drugs. They will find them as a good substitute for all the pain that they have been feeling lately. The substance abuse will make them fall deep into depression and may cause them to do self harm.
The victim of sex abuse might try to harm themselves. They will face depression and anxiety which can make them have suicidal thoughts. To avoid that, a person may start drinking or use some drugs but it can only numb the pain for a while. Victims may start to overdose on sleeping pills in the hope to find some relief. They will try to cut themselves in different areas and when you ask them about it, they will try to stall you saying that it’s nothing.
Avoiding specific situations or places:
A person who is a victim of sexual abuse will try to avoid some situations or places. For example, if they were raped at a party so they will avoid going to any parties for a long period of time. They will have this constant fear that what if something happens to them again. They will avoid going into dark alleys or streets that are not crowded. They will constantly fear that someone or their abuser is following them. To avoid any of that, they will isolate themselves from the rest of the world.
What are the long term effects of sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse is not something that heals quickly. It can take years for a person to recover from sexual abuse especially if the abuser was someone the victim trusted. There can be long term effects of sexual abuse that might stay with the victim for a long period of time.
- Trust issues
- Anger issues
- Negative self thoughts
- Impaired relationships
- Body dysmorphia
- Fear of intimacy
PTSD is one of the ;long term effects of sexual abuse. The victim will never forget that incident completely, they will try to recover from it and move on but parts of that abuse will be with them always. They will still feel unsafe around strangers, they will get scared when someone passes by them too closely, they will avoid social situations as much as they can, and sometimes they still experience nightmares. These are the sad after effects of PTSD.
Depression is one of the long term effects of sexual abuse. It will only grow with each passing day if not treated properly. If a person is in denial or doesn’t want to talk to anyone about their abuse and share their feelings then depression will keep growing its roots inside the victim’s head. So much so that the person will turn towards self harm or substance abuse.
The victim of sexual abuse will have a hrd time trusting on people in the future especially if their abuser is someone who used to be close to them. In that case, they will cut everyone off and go inside a shell. They will not be unable to make new friends and if someone tries to get close to them then, they will keep on making their walls high. They will build walls around them so they are protected by them.
The trust issues, PTSD, anxiety, and depression will only lead to isolation. The victim of sexual abuse will find some sort of relief when they are alone. This will assure them that no one can hurt them now. They will avoid going out with friends and start maintaining a distance from their loved ones. This behavior will come from the fact that they believe that everyone will hurt them and they should trust no one.
The victim of sexual abuse might face anger issues in the long run. They will have a hard time controlling their anger especially towards someone who reminds them of their abuser. They will hold grudges towards them. Their anger might get destructive and it is not necessary that their anger is directed towards their current situation. This anger is built up inside them from that incident that led them here.
Negative self thoughts:
The depression, anxiety, PTSD, and anger issues will only encourage negative thoughts towards themselves. They will start blaming for their situation and this might lead to self harm and suicidal thoughts. They will demean themselves and might take on alcohol or drug addiction.
A victim of sexual abuse might not have a stable relationship. They will always fear that their partner might leave them once they get to know about the abuse. Their negative thoughts and depression might get in the way of having a stable relationship. Sexual abuse may ruin their intimacy with their partner. They might get flashbacks whenever their partner tries to come to them.
A person who is a victim of sexual abuse may experience insomnia. They will keep themselves awake because as soon as they close their eyes the whole incident plays in their mind like a movie scene. To avoid having nightmares and panic attacks they will stay up all night. Even if they do fall asleep it will only be after they take sleeping pills to sort of numb the pain for a while.
The sexual abuse might give the victime dysmorphia about their body. They will point out their flaws and they will think that after the abuse they are not beautiful anymore. They will try to change a lot of things about themselves, they might starve themselves to get the perfect body. But no matter how many times their friends or family tell them that they are perfect, they will not listen. They will have this constant urge to sort of vanish their old self.
Fear of intimacy:
The victim of sexual abuse will always have a fear of being intimate with their partner in the future. It might give them flashbacks and their entire body can shut down because of those flashbacks. They will not let everyone be close to them and they will maintain a safe distance even from their friends and family. It is one of the sad after effects of sexual abuse. You don’t trust people easily, even if you are in love with your partner but being intimate is a huge deal for you.
How can you help someone who has faced sexual abuse?
If your friend or family member has been subjected to sexual abuse then there are a few things that you can do to make sure that slowly they recover and not find themselves a substitute for numbing their pain. Some of the things that you can do to help someone who has faced sexual abuse are as follows.
- Talk to them (if they want to)
- Educate yourself
- Encourage your friend
- Be a source of support
- Compliment their recovery
Talk to them (if they want to):
Talk to them and listen to their thoughts and feelings but only if they are willing to do so, never pressarize them. Never force them to do something they don’t want to, they are already very sensitive and going through different emotions, with you forcing them to talk can only make things worse. Wait patiently for them to open up and then listen to their story.
One of the important things that you can do to help them is to have knowledge about this abuse. Educate yourself, learn about the law and punishments for this abuse. Learn about the organizations that provide support group programs for the survivors. Let the victim know that they are not alone.
Encourage your friend:
Let them be the decision maker regarding this matter and whatever they decide you stand by them. The ordeal is already hard enough for them, they don’t need a new critic in their life. What they need is a friend who will understand them and respect their choices. Encourage your friend and tell them that you are there for them.
Be a source of support:
Be a source of support and encouragement for them. Don’t do anything that might offend them, especially don’t force them to go out. If they want to stay in then it’s fine. What you can do is stay with them and tell them that you should watch a movie or a show. Make them feel comfortable with you, this will make them open up with you about their feelings and emotions.
Compliment their recovery:
The best thing you can do for them is to complement their recovery process. Tell them how proud you are of them but don’t crowd them. They will find it hard to step out of the house after the abuse so be a familiar face in the crowd. Give them time and space, encourage them, and be someone they can count on.
It is not easy for a person to completely forget about their abuse and move on but, with the right support and encouragement they can recover from that incident. Although a person will try to hide that have experienced sexual abuse but they will jot try to hide the signs of sex abuse. The depression, anxiety, isolation, and most importantly the physical bruises. The victim may hide the bruises on their face and hands but there might be some broken bones.
If you see someone in your friends circle or in your family showing these signs then, you must help them but don’t attack them with all of your questions. This will make them run for the hills, be patient with them and let them come to you. Make them realize that you are not their enemy. They must be going through a lot of different emotions at that time so you have to be supportive. Once they start to open up, listen to them and don’t impose your ideas on them. Support them in their decision, this will help them a lot.