The Impact of Sexual Violence
- Feel shocked, alone, embarrassed or ashamed
- Feel helpless, angry, afraid, anxious
- Have problems with sexuality and body image
- Have problems with trust, intimacy and relationships
- Struggle to cope with overwhelming feelings and might behave in ways that seem harmful to her (i.e. using substances, harming herself, neglecting her physical needs).
Youth in particular may be seriously affected by the reactions of others, like parents, peers and siblings. Peers can spread gossip at the speed of light and can be insensitive or just plain malicious about an issue they don't really understand.
Parents are facing one of the most difficult things they will ever have to face. Fathers and mothers may feel like hurting someone, or may feel powerless and unsure how to respond. Parents also may also disbelieve or deny, and may feel anger, grief, stress, guilt or self-blame, helplessness, betrayal or resentment (among other things!). Keep in mind that 100% of the responsibility rests with the offender. Some of a parent’s feelings may be similar to those experienced by the survivor, and having a child experience sexual violence may trigger a parent’s own issues with trauma.
It is important to remember that the survivor is the focus of the support right now; she needs to know that she can focus on her own healing, and not feel the need to look after others.
Families can be affected by sexual violence in a variety of ways, coming closer together to being pulled apart, depending on the circumstances existing family dynamics and individual reactions. Siblings may be supportive, or feel left out of the attention being focused on the survivor. It may be easier to deal with if the offender was someone outside the family; for some, this makes people outside the family seem untrustworthy. Many people have feelings of disbelief or blame if it was a trusted family member or close friend; remember that the only person responsible for the assault is the perpetrator.
Crisis and Victim Service support is available for family, partners and friends. Please call the Information and Crisis Line (383-3232) in Victoria, or VictimLink at 1-800-563-0808.