There are roughly 293,000 reported cases of sexual assault annually throughout the United States. Victims of sexual assault often fail to report their experiences to the police – in fact, roughly 70 percent of victims do not step forward. Being assaulted in any way can be extremely traumatizing and can cause major damage to the psyche.
In many instances, those that do not report their abuse will turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, including self-medication. Those who suffer trauma are far more likely to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Sexual assault survivors will often exhibit symptoms of PTSD including (but not limited to):
- An inability to trust anyone
- Suicidal ideations
Historically, individuals who are suffering from undiagnosed and untreated symptoms of PTSD will turn to drugs and alcohol to alleviate their psychological discomfort. In order for someone who has undergone sexual assault and developed PTSD to truly recover from addiction, the underlying issues must be addressed and thoroughly treated.
Sexual Assault and Youth
Sadly, one out of every six boys in the US and one out of every four girls will experience some degree of sexual assault before the age of 18. The US Department of Health Services reported 62,939 documented cases of sexual abuse involving a minor in 2012. Since then, the number of cases has increased slightly. It has been proven that the experiences we have before the age of 18 impacts us more than the experiences we have in adulthood.
This is predominantly due to brain development – however, whereas it was once believed that the human brain stopped developing after the teenage years, it was recently discovered that the brain undergoes development into the late 20s and early 30s. Therefore, even though children may be more susceptible to the long-term consequences of emotional and physical trauma, individuals of any age are likely to be deeply emotionally affected by the lasting repercussions of sexual assault.
Increased Risk of Substance Abuse
There is no doubt that those who have undergone sexual trauma have higher rates of substance abuse. Additionally, alcohol and drugs are often involved in sexual assault – meaning that the victim may be intoxicated when the assault is taking place. This is especially common amongst college students and individuals in their early 20s. In both senses, drugs, and alcohol play a big role.
Researchers and addiction specialists alike have spent many years attempting to determine why comorbidity rates are so high. As previously mentioned, and probably the most common reason – survivors will turn to chemical substances in order to block out painful memories, or to alleviate symptoms of related psychological disorders, such as depression or PTSD.
Additionally, those that experience sexual assault may feel isolated – as if no one can really relate to what they have gone through. Resorting to substance abuse may help alleviate these feelings of deep-seated loneliness – however temporarily. Using drugs and alcohol might also alleviate underlying anxiety and help victims better cope with social situations, or other situations in which they may have otherwise felt uncomfortable. Of course, this is a very temporary solution to a serious and life-threatening problem.
Recreate Life Counseling and Sexual Assault
We at Recreate Life Counseling understand how important adequate, comprehensive psychiatric care is for those who have undergone sexual trauma and have turned to alcohol and drug abuse or addiction as a result. We are available to help, regardless of age, sex, or social background. For more information on our program of recovery, please call today. We look forward to hearing from you soon.