Content Warning: this blog overtly deals with sexual violence.
Sexual abuse is a heinous crime that has long-lasting effects on the victim. The impact of such abuse is both physical and emotional and can cause severe mental trauma in the long run.
What is Sexual Abuse?
The law clearly defines sexual abuse as any sexual act performed against another person without their consent. This ranges from inappropriate touching to child molestation to rape. In North Carolina, sexual abuse and assault are crimes punishable by jail or prison time, fines, mandatory sex offender registration, and other penalties.
Examples of Sexual Abuse
Some examples of sexual abuse include:
- Inappropriate touching: This includes things like fondling, groping, or touching another person in a sexual manner against their will.
- Sexual harassment: Unwanted sexual comments, advances, touching, and indirect actions leading to a hostile work environment can all be considered sexual harassment.
- Molestation/child molestation: This involves sexual advances/touching. Child molestation in North Carolina is defined as engaging in sexual activity with a minor under the age of 14.
- Sexual assault: In North Carolina, anyone who engages in sexual activity with another person through force (including the use of a deadly weapon) or the threat of force has committed sexual assault.
- Sexual battery: Making sexual contact with another person through force/threat of force, by using a deadly weapon, or when the victim is mentally disabled is considered sexual battery.
- Rape: North Carolina law still defines rape as sexual intercourse without the consent of the other person; this includes when the victim is unable to give consent.
- Statutory rape: Sexual intercourse without consent when the victim is under the age of 16 is considered statutory rape, though some exceptions to the law may apply.
Sexual Violence Statistics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the following:
Sexual violence is common.
Over 1 in 2 women and almost 1 in 3 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. 1 in 4 women and about 1 in 26 men have experienced completed or attempted rape. 1 in 3 women and about 1 in 9 men experienced sexual harassment in a public place.
Sexual violence starts early.
More than 4 in 5 female rape survivors reported that they were first raped before age 25, and almost half were first raped as a minor (i.e., before age 18). Nearly 8 in 10 male rape survivors reported that they were made to penetrate someone before age 25, and about 4 in 10 were first made to penetrate as a minor.
Sexual violence disproportionately affects some groups.
Women and racial and ethnic minority groups experience a higher burden of sexual violence. For example, more than 2 in 5 non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic multiracial women were raped in their lifetime.
Sexual violence is costly.
Recent estimates put the lifetime cost of rape at $122,461 per survivor, including medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities, and other costs.
The Long-Term Effects of Sexual Violence
Long-Term Physical Effects
One of the most immediate and noticeable effects of sexual abuse is the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These infections can cause long-term damage to the body if left untreated. Apart from STDs, as a result of the physical trauma, sexual abuse victims are also at an increased risk of:
1. Chronic Pain
A common physical effect of sexual abuse is chronic pain. This can manifest as headaches, muscle aches, and joint pain. These symptoms can be exacerbated by stress and anxiety, making them difficult to manage.
2. Gastrointestinal Issues
Many survivors of sexual abuse experience gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and diarrhea. These issues can be triggered by anxiety and stress, which can be common after experiencing trauma.
3. Sexual Dysfunction
Sexual abuse can have a profound impact on how survivors feel about sex, intimacy, and relationships. Many survivors experience sexual dysfunction or difficulty with arousal, orgasm, and desire, while other survivors experience hypersexuality.
4. Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is a common coping mechanism for people who have experienced sexual abuse. This can be a dangerous cycle, as substance abuse can exacerbate mental health issues and lead to physical harm.
5. Chronic Illness
Research has shown that survivors of sexual abuse are at a higher risk for developing chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune disorders. While the links between trauma and chronic illness are not fully understood, it is important to recognize the impact that sexual abuse can have on physical health.
Long-Term Emotional and Mental Effects
Sexual abuse can have profound and long-lasting effects on a person's emotional well-being. The trauma caused by sexual abuse can stay with a person for years or even a lifetime. A victim of sexual abuse may experience the following:
1. Difficulty with Trust
Survivors of sexual abuse may struggle with issues of trust. This can manifest in a variety of ways, including difficulty with intimate relationships or reluctance to share personal information with others. Survivors may struggle with feelings of betrayal and may worry about the potential for further abuse.
2. Depression and Anxiety
Sexual abuse can have a lasting impact on a person's mental health. Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are common among survivors. These symptoms can be difficult to manage and may last long after the abuse has ended.
3. Guilt and Shame
Survivors of sexual abuse often experience intense feelings of guilt and shame. They may blame themselves for the abuse, even though it was not their fault. These feelings can lead to a sense of worthlessness and may cause survivors to withdraw from social interactions.
4. Substance Abuse
It is not uncommon for those who have experienced sexual abuse to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating. Substance abuse can be a way of coping with the overwhelming emotions caused by the abuse, but it can also create a host of new problems.
5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Survivors of sexual abuse are at a high risk of developing PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, and intense anxiety.
Healing and Moving Forward
Healing from the trauma of sexual abuse takes time, effort, and patience. Victims of sexual abuse must prioritize their mental and physical health by seeking professional help, speaking to a therapist, and taking time for self-care. Support from loved ones can also be helpful, although difficult to ask for.
Importance of Hiring a Compassionate Sexual Abuse Attorney
A compassionate sexual abuse attorney can help you fight for justice and compensation. They understand the long-term effects of sexual abuse and can help you navigate the legal system. A compassionate attorney will also provide you with the emotional support needed to heal from the trauma.
The idea of standing up to your abuser may be intimidating or even downright frightening. At Lanier Law Group, P.A., we understand this. When you put our experienced, aggressive, and powerful North Carolina sexual abuse attorneys on your side, you have an entire team of dedicated advocates fighting for you.
Our goal is to make sure you feel safe and secure with our team, as well as confident in our attorneys’ ability to effectively protect your rights and help you secure rightful compensation for your damages. Most of all, we strive to help our clients rebuild their lives so they can continue in the healing process.
Contact us online or call (855) 757-4204 to request your free initial consultation. Se habla español.