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  Sexual Assault - Definition: The following dynamics need to be incorporated into any definition.
  • Power Violation.
  • Trust Betrayal.
  • Inability to give consent.
  • Inability to say no.
  • Implicit or explicit force or threats by the perpetrator.
  • The term 'sexual assault' refers to a broad range of unwanted sexual behaviours which occur along a continuum i.e. voyeurism to gang rape with a weapon etc.
  • Totalitarian control.
Incidence.

Note: Under-reporting is our societal norm.

  • 1 in 3 women
  • 1 in 6 men

Have been assaulted before the age of 18.
In some aboriginal populations 100% of females surveyed, have disclosed childhood sexual assault.
 

'Fergusen & Mullen study on childhood sexual assault'

Prevalence.

  • Prevalence 5.1% for males, 27.5% for females.

  • Onset of average age of 10 and most before 12.

  • 75% offenders known to child, 40% family members.

 7 Australian CSA Studies - overall findings. 'Andews, Gould and Corry (2002)'

 
The ABS Personal Safety Survey:
  • Under the age of 15: "Child Sexual Abuse is any sexual activity, by an adult towards a child.
  • Under the age of 15: 12% of women and 4.5 of men reported being sexually abused.
  • Since the age of 15: 19.1% of women and 5.5% of men experienced sexual violence (including threats) and 25% of women and 9.9% of men experienced unwanted touching.

 

Childhood Trauma Aftermath - Impact.
  • Research has demonstrated clear links between child sexual assault and mental health problems in adulthood.
  • Many studies have documented correlations between childhood sexual assault and adverse psychological and social outcomes, i.e. depression, anxiety, disorders, anti-social behaviour, substance abuse, eating disorders, suicidal behaviour, BPD, and PTSD (Dinwiddle et al 2000; fergusson et al 1996: Mullen at al 1994: Herman 1992.
  • Cox (1994 estimates that 50-80% of women using psychiatric services have a history of sexual abuse / assault.

 

Definition - Psychological trauma.
  • Lenore Terr, child Psychiatrist who did the first longitudinal study of traumatized children writes: "psychic trauma occurs when a sudden unexpected, overwhelming blow or a series of blows assaults the person from outside. Traumatic events are external, but they quickly become incorporated (internalised) into the mind. (1990)
  • Van der Kolk: "Traumatization occurs when both the internal and external resources are inadequate to cope with external threat' (1989)
  • Bloom: "Children are traumatized whenever they fear for their lives or for the lives of someone they love". (1999)
  • Bloom: "It is not the trauma itself (alone) that does the damage. It is how the individual's mind and body reacts in its own unique way to the traumatic experience in combination with the unique response of individual's social group". (1999)
  • Linda Bearup: "The dynamic of trauma is experienced idiosyncratically. Therefore it is impossible to compare one trauma with another.  We do know that the impact of trauma is about frequency, duration and severity. Whether it is deliberate or random, whether it is from human hands or environmental, all trauma has the potential to profoundly impact upon the developing psyche and thus the establishment of identity. We also know that trauma can have a trans-generational impact, i.e., A traumatized and inconsistent mother may have a child who becomes insecurely attached and may develop ways to self soothe and may cease looking to carers to meet its needs" (2005)

No list of reactions could cover all the reactions people have to sexual assault, and not everyone will have 'all' of these reactions.

Common immediate reactions:

Fear/fright, anxiety, anger, embarrassment, shame, disbelief/denial, feelings of guilt/responsibility, feelings of vulnerability/helplessness, crying/screaming, hostility/suspicion, controlled reaction style - calm/composed/unemployed, tense smiling, making jokes, feelings of being repulsive, fear of being murdered/mutilated/dumped, shock/feeling cold, disorientation, nausea, vomiting, hyperventilation, trembling/jitteriness, difficulty making decisions (eg, about contacting a crisis centre), aversion to physical contact, hypervigilance, increased startle response, doubt or fear for sanity, gratitude (for being alive), numbness/dissociation/depersonalisation//derealisation, flashbacks/intrusive recollection, sore throat, genital pain, itching/burning, skeletal tension/muscular soreness, injury including internal bruising/tearing/haemorrhaging/infection, STDs, olfactory hallucinations, sleep disturbances/nightmares.

Common medium/long term reactions:

Sleep disturbances (including insomnia and oversleeping), nightmares, exhaustion, eating disturbances/disorders, weight gain/loss, lowered body image, anxiety/panic attacks/pervasive fearfulness, fear of being left alone, sense of foreshortened future/fear of death, phobias, feelings of being persecuted/damaged, constant feeling of being threatened, heightened startle/fright response, hypervigilance, anger, depression, loss of interest/enjoyment, self loathing, suicidality, feelings of hostility, feelings of isolations/difference/alienation, increased/decreased socialising, increased dependency (on family, friends, partner), aversion to physical contact, difficulty completing tasks/performing at work, feelings of  ineffectiveness/helplessness, impatience/irritability, heightened emotional sensibility/fluctuating emotions, loss of emotional range/numbness, restlessness/agitation/inability to relax, loss of self respect/confidence, self-blame, guilt, feelings of humiliation, paranoia, obsessive compulsive behaviours, denial/doubt that the assault occurred, analgesia, amnesia of the event, memory loss, fugue, flashbacks/intrusive thoughts (can be more common under stress/fatigue/, sensory distortion/sensory overload, avoidance of associated situations, changers in sexual behaviour and satisfaction including sexual dysfunction, concerns about own sexual development, unwanted sexual fantasies/arousal, promiscuity/compulsive sexuality/compulsive masturbation/inability to refuse sexual advances, rejection of sexuality, confusion/concern about sexual identity/preference, concerns about becoming a perpetrator, precocious maturity (in children), hiding masculinity/femininity, reasserting masculinity/femininity, inertia, catatonia, escapism/fantasy/daydreams, thoughts of revenge, defiant risk unrecognized, mind - body separation/disassociation/derealisation/depersonalisation, feeling loss of self, freezing in response to perceived dangers or under stress, changes in/lack of expressive body language, loss of previously sustained beliefs/changed worldview, changes in spirituality/importance of spirituality, relationship difficulties, unhealthy relationships, substance abuse/addiction, self injury/self punishing behaviour, nervous twitch/tics, sweating, suppressed immune system, soreness in lower back/stomach, nausea/stomach upset, headaches/migraines, stuttering/speech difficulty, gynaecological changes including irregular/heavy/painful periods, urinary tract infections, painful intercourse, neurocirculatory symptoms, physical terror response to proximity of the perpetrator (even without visual-intellectual recognition), recreation of the victimizing experience.

 



World Without Sexual Assault

 
Lindy Bearup  lindybearup@gmail.com
 
 

Moonyah acknowledges that we work on the land of the Wurundjeri Traditional owners.

 

"Yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow is only a vision,
but today well lived - makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope"
old Sanskrit proverb.