On September 27, 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers.
“Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life,” Dr. Ford had said during her testimony. “I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world.”
Dr. Ford’s testimony has had a lasting impact on the #MeToo movement, which was started in 2006 by Tarana Burke and then went viral on social media in 2017 thanks to actors like Alyssa Milano.
While the #MeToo movement has brought greater awareness to sexual abuse and empowered more victims to speak up, more work is needed to address the effects of sexual assault to help people cope with the trauma it causes. Let’s take a look at the connection between sexual assault and trauma and how it can lead to substance abuse.
Sexual Assault Trauma
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. And even if we leave rape out of the equation, one in three women and one in six men in the United States has experienced sexual violence contact in their lifetime.
Sexual assault – no matter if it’s rape or unwanted sexual contact – leaves a mark on the victim. And even when the physical signs of abuse have faded, the emotional and mental impact on the victim can remain for years, if not for the rest of their lives.
Emotional Impact of Sexual Assault
Every victim responds to sexual assault differently. Some victims will respond with anger and fear, while others will have lost their ability to trust others close to them.
No matter which emotion manifests the strongest, sexual assault results in feelings like fear, self-blame and guilt, a sense of helplessness and vulnerability, numbness and feeling completely out of control of their own lives.
Mental Impact of Sexual Assault
Sexual assault – whether it was an isolated incident or something that was repeated multiple times – can leave both women and men with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the form of nightmares, severe anxiety and flashbacks.
Victims of sexual assault can also experience severe depression, suicidal thoughts and dissociation where they have a hard time focusing on the present moment.
For many victims, the emotions and mental health issues triggered by sexual assault can lead to substance abuse.
Addiction to Cope with Sexual Assault Trauma
For many victims, the emotional and mental trauma caused by sexual assault can become too much to bear. The mistrust that stemmed from the abuse can lead to victims not seeking help and instead turning to drugs or alcohol to cope.
Drugs or alcohol are seen as a good solution for victims of sexual assault because these substances help them feel good, numb them to the pain associated with the memories and feelings of the abuse and rids them of the anxiety of self-consciousness they now feel.
Despite the short-term benefits, substance use quickly turns into an addiction that only makes the trauma from sexual assault more difficult to cope with. The best option at this point is a dual diagnosis treatment center that can help the victim overcome their addiction and sexual assault trauma.
Healing at The Raleigh House for Addiction and Trauma
At The Raleigh House, we’ve seen what sexual assault trauma and addiction can do to people. But we also know that there is so much hope and healing when you get treatment at the right facility.
We offer holistic, evidence-based dual diagnosis treatment for people suffering from addiction and mental health disorders caused by sexual assault. In a safe, calm, judgment-free environment, we help you overcome your addiction and face your sexual assault.