After working solely with sexual violence survivors for several years I’m now branching out and working in community mental health as well. However, the realization struck me shortly after working with this more broad population that the overwhelming majority of these clients had also been victimized sometime in their lives. Although many of these clients were seeking help for problems in their relationships, chronic mental illness, depression, or any variety of counseling need, the disclosure of their assault seems as a breakthrough moment in therapy.
Now, this is certainly not meant to imply that all sexual assault survivors will need psychological assistance for bigger issues later in life, nor am I trying to imply that all of their current problems are a direct result of their sexual assault. However, sexual assaults have been linked eating disorders, substance abuse problems, anxiety disorders, and problems with intimacy. Therefore, it is generally easier to work through problems before they may compound in the future. For example, if a sexual assault survivor begins abusing alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate and eventually seeks treatment for alcoholism then they will have to now work through the dual problems associated with addiction and trauma. That being said, no one should be forced into counseling before they feel ready to address the trauma. It is a balancing act for many survivors, however, it is one that is sometimes necessary in the road to healing and recovery.