sexual abuse of any type should never be minimised or condoned

All abuse has a damaging impact on victims. The type, extent, and duration of the abuse are some of the factors that determine the level of suffering endured by the victim. I believe that sexual abuse, which breaches the most personal and sacred boundaries has the greatest impact of all, and much of it is long term. Rape leaves severe psychological and emotional scars on the victim, and it may take years before it is disclosed. Men, for example, who have been raped as adults, may never disclose. They find it so shameful that they dull their pain with alcohol, drugs, or perhaps commit suicide. Rape can lead to post traumatic stress, extreme fear, rage, and panic attacks. Victims may develop eating disorders, have nightmares, and experience suicidal thoughts and behaviours. In their revulsion at being sexually degraded, they sometimes wash compulsively and self-harm. Many experience relationship difficulties and are fearful of expressing intimacy. They feel humiliated, defiled, worthless, and guilty. It is little wonder that they find it difficult to trust, and sometimes withdraw from social contact. I have met victims who suffer from depression, and somatic ailments, and find it difficult to perform normal tasks.
Marital rape causes as much trauma as rape by a stranger. This violent act can inflict physical injuries to sexual areas, as well as emotional and psychological damage, leading to fear, depression, anger, and anxiety. It can lead to long term consequences such as eating disorders, depression, fear of sex, lack of sexual enjoyment, and sleeping problems. Rape by a spouse breaks a deep trust, and causes the victim to question her value as a lovable individual. It betrays the fundamental basis of the marital relationship and shatters every understanding victims have, not only of their partners and the marriage, but also of themselves. Women sometimes question if what is happening is really rape.
The violence of rape should not blind us to the fact that all sexual abuse has serious consequences. Victims, for example, who have been inappropriately fondled, experience many of the same feelings as rape victims. It is vitally important for friends, family, and therapists not to minimise any form of sexual abuse,
I believe that therapy offers the best option to deal with these damaging effects. Rape crisis centres are, in my opinion, excellently positioned to deal with this trauma. Many victims are unwilling to go to the police following sexual assault. You should, however, be aware that many countries have special units in hospitals to deal with this trauma. In Ireland, these are known as Sexual Assault Treatment Units. Currently, they are located in Dublin (Rotunda), Waterford (Regional), Cork (South Infirmary Victoria University), Mullingar (Midlands Regional), Galway (Hazelwood House), and Donegal (Letterkenny). They cater for male and female victims of 14 years upwards. It is a free and confidential service, and can be accessed through the police, GP, Rape Crisis Centres, or by self-referral. There are no time limitations for attending, and victims can attend without police involvement, if they wish. The website of the Cork Infirmary Victoria University Hospital is informative about the excellent services these units provide.
Ultimately, victims have to integrate it like any trauma, and then they can lead fulfilled and happy lives. There are many people, who have recovered from rape through appropriate therapy, and went on to form happy, healthy, relationships with non-abusive partners. The love and support of family, and friends combined with counselling is a powerful antidote to the suffering that comes from sexual abuse.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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