Jessica Cervini LCSW, a PWG therapist has written a guest blog for this month with resources and information about sexual assault.
While we wish that nobody ever needed this information, the reality is, many will. Should you every find yourself or someone you love the victim of assault, please remember, you are not to blame. There was nothing you could have done differently to change anything. There is nothing different or bad about you. It will take time, but you will not always feel like this. And to please consider reaching out for help to a professional, therapists are trained in supporting survivors get through the hardest of moments in life. You can get through the aftermath of an assault, you may just need extra support, and you are worth every bit of it.
According to RAINN, every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. Sexual assault is a sexual act that is attempted or committed against an individual who did not willing provide consent or is unable to consent. Sexual assault is motivated by a need to control, humiliate, and harm. The CDC indicates more than 1 in 3 women experienced sexual violence involving physical contact in their lifetime, nearly 1 in 4 men experienced sexual violence involving physical contact in their lifetime, and 1 in 2 transgender people experience sexual violence. It is not uncommon for a survivor to know their perpetrator- RAINN notes that 8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the survivor.
Sexual assault can impact a survivor psychologically, emotionally, and physically. While a survivor’s response to a traumatic event is unique to them, some common effects include PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-harm, substance-abuse, sleep disorders, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, and dissociation. Some emotional effects of sexual assault include a sense of vulnerability, changes in their ability to trust others, helplessness, fear, self-blame, numbness, isolation, and loss of control. Survivors often experience cognitive distortions suggesting they are damaged, unworthy of a better life, or that it was their fault.
We all have a role to play in the prevention of sexual assault. The CDC developed STOP-SV to assist with providing the most effective evidence to prevent sexual assault. STOP SV is an acronym that stands for promote social norms that protect violence against women, teach skills to prevent sexual violence, provide opportunities to empower and support girls and women, create protective environments, and support victims/survivors to lessen harm. Read more about STOP SV here.
Remember sexual assault is never your fault, you are not alone, and you are deserving of help and support.
Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network Hotline (RAINN): 1.800.656.4673
Putnam Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center Hotline: 845.628.2166
Westchester Community Opportunity Program Hotline: 855.827.2255
Westchester Medical Center: Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Victims Empowerment Program (SAAVE) Hotline: 833.220.2444