Understanding Trauma & Violence


What makes sexual violence traumatizing?


Sexual violence can be traumatizing for several reasons. To start, the violation of bodily autonomy and boundaries can shatter a survivor's sense of safety and trust. When someone experiences sexual violence, their fundamental right to control what happens to their body is forcibly taken away, leaving them often feeling powerless and vulnerable. This loss of agency can profoundly disrupt one's sense of self and safety in the world, leading to feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion.

Second, the aftermath of sexual violence often involves significant emotional turmoil and distress. Survivors may grapple with a wide range of emotions, including fear, anger, sadness, and numbness. These feelings can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate, especially when combined with societal attitudes that may blame or discredit survivors. The emotional impact of sexual violence can persist long after the assault itself, affecting relationships, daily functioning, and overall well-being.

The trauma survivors experience can extend beyond the event itself.  Cultural norms and attitudes that perpetuate victim-blaming, minimize the severity of sexual assault, or perpetuate harmful stereotypes about gender and sexuality can compound the trauma survivors face. These societal messages can reinforce feelings of shame and self-blame, making it harder for survivors to seek support and healing. Recognizing and challenging these harmful beliefs is crucial in creating a more supportive and empathetic environment for survivors to heal.

Survivors can also face retraumatization when navigating systems intended to provide support and justice. Institutional responses, such as reporting to law enforcement or seeking medical care, can be retraumatizing if these systems are not trauma-informed and survivor-centered. These experiences can further erode survivors' trust in systems meant to support them and reinforce feelings of powerlessness and isolation.

It's important to recognize that the degree of trauma experienced by survivors is influenced by a myriad of factors, and each survivor's response is unique. Factors such as past trauma, support networks, cultural background, and access to resources can all impact how an individual copes with and recovers from sexual violence. Consequently, some survivors may experience more severe and long-lasting effects than others who have endured similar experiences. Acknowledging and respecting the individuality of survivors' experiences is essential in providing effective and compassionate support.

Despite all the reasons why survivors may experience trauma, healing is possible. If you are experiencing trauma related to sexual violence, do not be afraid to seek help and take things one step at a time. With time, patience, and support, survivors can find a path towards reclaiming their sense of self, finding a sense of safety, and rebuilding their lives. Do not give up hope.

Safety Exit