Understanding Sexual Violence: Effects on Survivors and Access to Support

by | Nov 22, 2023 | Assault, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, Uber Harassment, Uber Sexual Assault

Sexual violence, a deeply pervasive issue, encompasses various forms of unwanted sexual acts or behaviors inflicted on an individual without their consent. These acts can range from rape, sexual assault, harassment, to other forms of abusive behavior, causing profound physical, emotional, and psychological harm. Understanding the nature of sexual violence, its impact on survivors, and the available support resources is crucial in addressing this widespread societal issue.

At Kherkher Garcia, we provide comprehensive support to survivors of sexual violence and their families. We are committed to being advocates for survivor rights and the pursuit of justice. Below, our sexual assault lawyers discuss the impact of sexual violence and how survivors can get the help and support they need to move forward with their lives.

Defining Sexual Violence

Sexual violence refers to any non-consensual sexual act or behavior imposed on an individual against their will or without their explicit consent. It encompasses a spectrum of actions, including:

  • Rape: Rape is sexual intercourse that is forced or unwanted. It can occur between strangers, acquaintances, or intimate partners.
  • Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that is forced or unwanted. This can include unwanted touching, kissing, or groping.
  • Child Sexual Abuse: Child sexual abuse is any sexual contact or behavior involving a minor. This can include rape, sexual assault, or child pornography.
  • Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Sexual violence can occur within intimate relationships, among acquaintances, in social settings, or through the abuse of power in professional or institutional settings. It can also occur between complete strangers.

Impact on Survivors

Sexual violence leaves deep and lasting impacts on survivors, affecting various aspects of their lives, including their physical, emotional, psychological, and social well-being. The effects can be profoundly distressing and may manifest differently for each survivor. Some of the common impacts of sexual violence on survivors include:

Physical Consequences

Survivors of sexual violence may suffer physical injuries such as bruises, cuts, fractures, or internal trauma resulting from the assault. Additionally, sexual violence can lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy resulting from rape, and other reproductive health issues.

Emotional and Psychological Trauma

The emotional and psychological toll of sexual violence can be severe. Survivors often experience intense emotional distress, including feelings of fear, shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common consequence, leading to flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event.

Impact on Mental Health

Sexual violence significantly affects mental health. Survivors may struggle with trust issues, self-esteem issues, and a sense of helplessness or powerlessness. Some may resort to self-harm, substance abuse, or develop eating disorders as coping mechanisms.

Disruption of Relationships

Survivors may face challenges in relationships with family, friends, and intimate partners. The trauma of sexual violence can strain relationships due to difficulties in communication, intimacy, and trust issues. Social withdrawal or isolation can also occur as a result.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Implications

Sexual violence can have profound implications on survivors’ sexuality and reproductive health. It can lead to difficulties in establishing healthy sexual relationships, sexual dysfunction, avoidance of intimacy, and fear of physical contact. Additionally, survivors may struggle with their reproductive choices due to unwanted pregnancies resulting from the assault.

Impact on Daily Functioning

Survivors often experience difficulties in various aspects of their daily lives. They may encounter challenges in concentrating, maintaining employment or academic pursuits, and engaging in regular activities due to the distress and trauma caused by the assault.

Long-Term Effects

The effects of sexual violence can be enduring, impacting survivors’ lives for years after the assault. Unresolved trauma may continue to affect their mental health, relationships, and overall well-being, requiring ongoing support and healing.

Risk of Re-Victimization

Survivors of sexual violence may be at a higher risk of experiencing subsequent victimization or re-traumatization, especially if they do not receive adequate support or if the assault remains unaddressed.

Understanding the multifaceted and complex impacts of sexual violence on survivors is crucial in providing appropriate support, resources, and compassionate care to help them navigate their healing journey. Empathy, support, and access to comprehensive services are essential in aiding survivors in their recovery and fostering resilience in the face of trauma.

Seeking Help and Support

Survivors of sexual violence need compassionate support and access to resources to navigate their healing journey. Several avenues and resources are available to survivors:

  • Hotlines and Helplines: National and local helplines provide immediate assistance, support, and guidance for survivors. Organizations like the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) offer confidential helplines staffed by trained professionals who can provide information, support, and referrals to local resources.
  • Counseling and Therapy: Mental health professionals specializing in trauma can offer counseling and therapy tailored to address the emotional and psychological impact of sexual violence. Therapy sessions can help survivors process their trauma, develop coping mechanisms, and work towards healing.
  • Medical Assistance: Seeking medical attention after experiencing sexual violence is crucial. Medical professionals can provide necessary care, conduct forensic examinations (if desired), and offer treatments for physical injuries, STIs, and pregnancy prevention.
  • Support Groups: Participating in support groups or survivor communities can provide a sense of belonging, validation, and understanding. Connecting with other survivors in a safe space allows for shared experiences and mutual support.
  • Legal Aid and Lawyer Support: Legal resources and advocacy organizations can assist survivors in understanding their rights, navigating legal processes, obtaining protective orders, and seeking justice against perpetrators.
  • Educational and Community Resources: Educational resources and community initiatives focused on preventing sexual violence and promoting awareness can provide information on consent, healthy relationships, and available support services.

Resources for Sexual Violence Survivors in Texas

In Texas, several organizations and resources are available to support survivors of sexual violence. These resources offer a range of services, including crisis intervention, counseling, legal advocacy, medical assistance, and educational programs. Here are some notable sexual violence resources in Texas:

Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA)

TAASA is a statewide coalition advocating for survivors of sexual assault. They offer resources, training, and support to local sexual assault crisis centers across Texas. Their website provides information on services, prevention, and policy initiatives related to sexual violence.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) Affiliates

RAINN is a national organization that partners with local service providers. They operate the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) which connects survivors to trained counselors and local resources. RAINN affiliates in Texas can offer support and referrals to survivors.

Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs)

Many communities in Texas have SARTs, multidisciplinary teams consisting of law enforcement, medical professionals, advocates, and prosecutors, working together to improve the response to sexual assault cases. Local law enforcement agencies or hospitals can provide information about SARTs in specific areas.

Local Sexual Assault Crisis Centers

Texas has numerous local sexual assault crisis centers that provide comprehensive services to survivors. These centers offer crisis intervention, counseling, advocacy, and support groups. Examples include the Houston Area Women’s Center, The SAFE Alliance in Austin, and The Women’s Center in Fort Worth.

Legal Aid and Advocacy Organizations

Organizations such as the Texas Legal Services Center and Legal Aid of Northwest Texas offer legal assistance and advocacy for survivors seeking help with legal matters related to sexual violence, including protective orders, legal representation, and navigating the justice system.

Hospitals and Healthcare Providers

Hospitals often have specialized Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) trained to provide medical care and forensic exams for survivors of sexual assault. They can also connect survivors with support services and resources.

University and College Resources

Many educational institutions in Texas have offices or centers dedicated to preventing sexual violence and supporting survivors. These resources may include counseling services, confidential reporting options, and educational programs.

Online Resources and Hotlines

Various online resources and hotlines provide information, support, and guidance for survivors. Websites like the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Office of the Attorney General of Texas offer information on sexual violence, reporting options, and available resources in the state.

It is important to note that these resources may vary in availability and services offered across different regions of Texas. Survivors seeking help can contact local law enforcement, hospitals, or hotlines for guidance and referrals to appropriate resources based on their needs.

Overcoming Barriers to Seeking Help

Survivors of sexual violence may encounter barriers that hinder their ability to seek help, including fear, shame, self-blame, concerns about confidentiality, lack of awareness about available resources, or distrust in the justice system. It is essential to address these barriers by fostering supportive environments, ensuring confidentiality and privacy, and providing education about available services.

Contact a Sexual Assault Lawyer for Help

Sexual violence poses a grave threat to individuals’ physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. At Kherkher Garcia, we are committed to helping survivors find the support and legal resources they need to pursue justice and obtain compensation, if applicable, for the harm they have suffered.

By fostering a culture of empathy, support, and access to comprehensive resources, we hope to empower survivors to seek help, begin their healing process, and work towards a future free from sexual violence.

If you or someone you love is a victim of sexual violence, contact Kherkher Garcia for help. Our sexual assault lawyers specialize in these delicate cases, and we know how to protect your rights and wellbeing as you pursue the justice that you deserve. For a free confidential consultation, call us at 713-333-1030, or complete our online contact form.

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Bret Stanley

Bret Stanley

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Bret Stanley. Bret is a practicing injury lawyer with more than 12 years experience. He has won Millions in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Bret’s practice areas have focused on helping clients with rideshare sexual assault, product liability, pharmaceutical device and drug claims, mass tort litigation, catastrophic personal injury litigation, complex insurance litigation, and Jones Act / Maritime Injury litigation.

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