Survivors of sexual violence process trauma in a variety of ways, ranging from rage and grief to apathy and disassociation; it is important to understand that there is not one pattern of response to a sexual assault. Subsequently, individuals who experience sexual assault are at much higher risk of developing substance abuse issues.
Research shows that as many as two thirds of people in drug and alcohol treatment facilities have experienced some degree of physical or sexual abuse during childhood. Additionally, 70-80% of survivors of sexual violence report having to battle with substance abuse issues following their assault. One study found that 50% people who have experienced sexual trauma showed symptoms of PTSD following the assault, and that 30% of those individuals were still affected by PTSD 9 months later – that number is on par with the percentage of soldiers who experienced PTSD after returning from Vietnam (31%). It is common knowledge that people who suffer from PTSD are likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.
Although every individual responds differently, if you believe that you or someone you know may have been assaulted, the common feelings that may occur after experiencing sexual violence are:
- Emotional numbness
- Concern for the offender
- Disturbed sleep/nightmares
- Suicidal thoughts
- Increased drug and alcohol use
Whether you experienced sexual abuse two weeks ago, or two decades ago, it is never too late to seek help. Immediate crisis intervention and long-term counseling can be invaluable to a survivor, and aid in recovery from mental health and substance abuse issues. There are organizations in nearly every city that specialize in serving those who have been victimized by sexual violence. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is an excellent place to begin looking for resources.
If you or someone you love has substance abuse problem please, contact New Bridge Foundation today for a free assessment.