Undeniably, there is a link between sexual abuse and mental health. A great number of victims served either come into services with an already diagnosed mental health issue or will be diagnosed during the course of their treatment. While it is true that many adult survivors come into counseling and overcome the effects of their abuse, extensive lifetime services may be needed to help them learn to reintegrate emotionally and mentally.
An article on care2’s website states, “ a new study of Australian women from the Journal of American Medicine reveals what, to women’s rights activists, should be obvious: experiencing sexual violence can severely damage long-term mental health.”
A shocking 27% of the 4,451 women who were surveyed in 2007 said that they had been the victim of at least one instance of gender-based violence. Over half the women who had experienced some kind of abuse reported a history of depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse or anxiety, compared to 28% of women who had not been subjected to violence.
Although the connection between mental health problems and sexual violence may seem obvious, experts say it’s crucial to understand just how closely linked they appear to be. “The extent and strength of the association we found was surprising and very concerning,” said Dr. Susan Ress, the study’s lead author.
According to Rees, there is “ample evidence” to support the theory that interpersonal violence causes mental health disorders. She added that because the rate of sexual violence in the United States is similar to that of Australia, a study conducted in the U.S. would probably have similar results.”
Furthermore, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape cites statistics on their website, that support this link:
- The chances that a woman will develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder after being raped are between 50 and 95 percent. Population Reports: Ending Violence Against Women, 2000.
- Childhood sexual abuse was significantly associated with dissociation. Both sexual abuse and dissociation were independently associated with several indicators of mental health disturbance, including risk-taking behavior (suicidality, self-mutilation, and sexual aggression). Kisiel, Cassandra and Lyons, John. Dissociation as a Mediator of Psychopathology Among Sexually Abused Children and Adolescents. American Journal of Psychiatry. 158: 1034-1039. 2001
- Girls who are raped are about three times more likely to suffer from psychological disorders and over four times more likely to suffer from drug and alcohol abuse in adulthood. Medical College of Virginia Commonwealth University, 2000
- Sexual assault is also closely associated with depression and anxiety disorders. “Population Reports: Ending Violence Against Women”, December 1999, Series L, Number 11. Population Information Program, Center for Communication Programs. The Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.