It isn’t surprising that the victims of sex crimes often suffer from mental and emotional health issues that can plague them well after the initial incident. Typically, sex crimes are about exerting power over another person, which can leave the victim feeling both physically violated and emotionally powerless. Dealing with the trauma and the lasting feelings that can persist, often result in significant mental health disorders. The statistics are staggering:
How Many People are Affected
Before we even take a closer look at how these crimes affect mental health, it is important to recognize just how many people in the US and around the world are victims of sex crimes.
- “Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.” That amounts to about 321,500 victims over the age of 12 ever year.
- 1 in 6 women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape.
- 1 in 5 girls is sexually abused.
- 1 in 20 boys is sexually abused.
Ultimately, this means that about one-third of all Americans experience some sort of sexual abuse or sexual violence in their lifetime. These victims often go on to experience serious mental health problems.
The lasting symptoms of sexual violence vary among individuals and largely affect women since they account for 90% of all victims. In some cases, victims have difficulty trusting other people and forming healthy, open relationships. However, many suffer from more serious mental disorders that require treatment.
- 70% of sex crime victims experience moderate to severe depression.
- PTSD occurs within the first two weeks after the assault for 94% of victims and 30% continue to experience PTSD nine months after the incident.
- Many victims report suicidal thoughts with a full 13% actually attempting suicide.
As the victims continue to try and deal with the trauma, depression and anxiety in the aftermath of an assault, they often turn to drugs and alcohol to try to manage the mental and emotional pain. As a result, sex crime victims are 10 times more likely than the average population to use major drugs.
Long-Term Effects on Family and Relationships
Family and personal relationships can become further complicated because 83% of women are abused or assaulted by someone they know or are related to. This can make it difficult to come forward. Many victims simply stay quiet because they fear that they won’t be believed and that it will damage the family. Keeping this kind of secret inevitably exacerbates the mental strain of the event.
Victims also often have trouble getting along with people at work or school and tend to lash out more. These behavioral issues can have a trickle-down effect throughout the entire family. The children of sexual abuse victims also suffer from significantly higher instances of depression as they tend to mirror and absorb the feelings and attitudes in their direct environment.
For those who have been the victim of a sex crime, it is important to seek out help. As outlined above, this type of trauma can have lasting effects that effect mental health and the lives of those around you. The best way to try to move forward is to reach out and receive professional guidance on how to deal with trauma in the healthiest ways possible.