There is not enough support for those of you who have experienced sexual trauma. Nothing about what happened to you is okay. The mental, physical, and emotional pain is real and the fact that you are hurting makes me honestly wish there was more I could do.
But you are not alone.
These are the things. These are the things I wish so desperately I could say to each and every single woman who has been a victim of sexual trauma. So I will say it here, in hopes that it will reach as many of you as possible.
Why? Because I think there has never been a more important time to acknowledge these truths:
There needs to be an open dialogue about this stuff.
Child sexual trauma, sexual assault, and bad medical experiences can all cause a ripple effect for years afterward.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sexual violence refers to “sexual activity when consent is not obtained or not freely given.” While anyone can experience sexual violence, the CDC confirms something most of us already know: the majority are women.
Millions of people are affected each year in the US alone, and even the reportable numbers are considered by trustworthy sources to be incomplete due to a high number of unreported incidents. Whether it’s embarrassment, shame, or fear, the reasons are complex, complicated and emotional for those who have experienced some form of sexual violence.
And the numbers are staggering. The CDC reports that nearly one of every five women have experienced a completed or attempted rape during her lifetime, with one in three rape victims experiencing it for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17 and one in eight rape victims reporting that it occurred before the age of 10.
So what makes sexual trauma so traumatic?
One particularly alarming statistic, courtesy of Psychology Today, reports that women actually have double the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than men. And while men are more likely to experience trauma from combat, accidents, natural disasters, or disasters caused by humans, women who report trauma most frequently report incidents of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault.
In short, the reason sexual trauma is so traumatic lies in all the emotions. There’s fear and shame and self-blame and anger and grief and…let us not forget, the stigma. Despite there being no valid reason for any of the self-blame or for feeling ashamed, it happens more often than it doesn’t.
Your resources are not your enemies.
I say that with the most sincere love and support in my heart because I know I’m not the only doctor, or the only human being for that matter, who someone has guarded themselves against in the aftermath of sexual trauma.
I say that because I understand the psychology of why a person is feeling alone or unsupported after experiencing sexual trauma. I say that because nothing about what happened to you is okay.
And that is also why I can say with both open arms and a loving heart that we are here for you.
We’re here for the good times and the scary times. When you walk into our office, you walk into a judgement free zone. We care, probably more than you know, about every single part of what’s going on with your health. We are a resource for you in times of trouble, and even if, for some reason, you choose not to utilize that, we can point you in the direction of someone who can help.
You are not alone.
You can talk to your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional to help work through your pain. You can use your resources for good because we are here to help you work through these things. Utilize friends and family.
What’s most important is that you have the hard conversations. These are the things I want you to know as a doctor and as a resource to you. Please never hesitate to contact me – I am here for you.
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