Posts Tagged ‘sexual assault’

Prevention Tuesday – The Mental Health Effects of Silence on Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

In Education, Prevention on May 8, 2012 at 5:00 am

No one questions the serious effects that sexual abuse has on children.  Few realize that left untreated, the effects of child sexual abuse may continue to surface as an adult.  One study found that 95% of those who experienced child sexual abuse had mental disorders as an adult.  Mental disorders include depression, severe anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Out of the 95%, about 50% were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as an adult.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many people see child sexual abuse as a “family affair.”  Fearful of the shame such a scandal might bring, families often shove the issue under the rug, leaving the child without support or outlets to deal with the abuse.  The shame of the abuse is often transferred to the child, who learns to keep silent about their experiences.  This silence is so engrained that adults do not even feel comfortable disclosing the abuse to their counselors.   In a study of 1,600 adults, one third of their counselors did not know whether their clients had experienced sexual abuse as a child.

From a prevention standpoint, the answer is pretty clear.  Child sexual abuse has serious affects into adulthood, but part of that may be our tendency to sweep the issue under the rug.  One way to help prevent serious mental disorders if your child has experienced sexual abuse is to talk with them and get them help.  The message here is not that people who experienced child abuse are un-repairable, but that silence is dangerous.

Here are some great resources on talking to kids about sexual abuse:


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry


 National Center for PTSD


Prevention Tuesday – The Links Between Sexual Violence and Mental Health Issues

In Education, Prevention on May 1, 2012 at 5:00 am

For the month of May, we will be focusing on the links between sexual assault and mental health. Being assaulted can have many varied and profound impacts on the mental well being of a survivor. Some possible issues include:


– Depression

-Suicidal ideation

-Alcohol and drug abuse


-Disordered eating

It’s important to be aware of these possible impacts and make sure that you seek help for yourself, or for someone you know who might be experiencing these problems as a result of assault. Here are some quick facts on mental health and sexual assault:

From the World Report on Violence and Health:

  • “In one population-based study, the prevalence of symptoms or signs suggestive of a psychiatric disorder was 33% in women with a history of sexual abuse as adults, 15% in women with a history of physical violence by an intimate partner and 6% in non-abused women (163).”
  • “A study of adolescents in France also found a relationship between having been raped and current sleep difficulties, depressive symptoms, somatic complaints, tobacco consumption and behavioral problems (such as aggressive behaviour, theft and truancy) (163).”
  • “Women who experience sexual assault in childhood or adulthood are more likely to attempt or commit suicide than other women. The association remains, even after controlling for sex, age, education, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and the presence of psychiatric disorders (163).”


From New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence’s fact sheet “Sexual Assault: The Mental Health Impact”:

  • “A study of 1400 adult female twins found that women who had been raped as girls were three times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders or abuse alcohol and drugs than their twins who had not been sexually abused (1).”
  • “A review of 166 studies between 1985 and 1997 found that, compared to boys who were never abused, sexually abused boys were four times more likely to suffer from major depression, three times more likely to be bulimic, and at least two times more likely to have antisocial personality disorder, behavioral problems, low self image, or runaway behavior. In addition, sexually abused boys were one and a half to fourteen times more likely to attempt suicide (1).”
  • “In the nationally representative Survey of Women’s Health by the Commonwealth Fund in 1998, women who experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner were four to five times more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety than women who did not experience violence (1).”

While these statistics are sobering, there are things that can be done to help those who are suffering.  According to a New York City study, victims who met with a representative from a rape crisis center during their initial emergency room visit reported the fastest recovery from psychological injuries and return to a normal daily routine (Sexual Assault: The Mental Health Impact, 2). By helping those who have been affected by sexual violence early on, we can help them to begin the healing process faster. Reaching out is the first step, and it’s important that we take it!





RCASA Volunteer Corner: No Means No!

In Education, Volunteer on April 29, 2012 at 5:00 am

No means No

I’m not sure, means NO

Not right now, means NO

I’m tired right now, means NO

Silence, means NO

Stop means NO

Staying Still means NO

Anything but consent means NO.

Feel free to share with friends, make sure to link back to RCASA!!

Wednesday Outreach – Reflecting Upon UMW’s Take Back the Night and Looking Forward to RCASA’s 1st Annual Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in Collaboration with the CATF

In Awareness Campaigns, Education, Events, Outreach, Sexual Assault Awareness on April 18, 2012 at 5:00 am

Last Wednesday our agency participated in the University of Mary Washington’s annual Take Back the Night event. The Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault has been involved with this event in the past, however, this was my first year attending or participating. (For those of you who are not familiar with Take Back the Night, you can see our March 13th blog for a bit of the history of this event).

In the weeks leading up to the actual event our agency spent a lot of  partnering with student organizations, campus administrators and other community agencies learning about how to plan a successful Take Back the Night. I thought that with all of the time and energy we had put into planning the event that I knew exactly what to expect. However, nothing could have prepared me for the emotionally charged and inspirational event that took place on campus that evening. Seeing so many young people united to end sexual violence in our community despite the cold temperatures and the temperamental weather truly inspired me as a professional, but also as an individual. Watching young survivors of sexual and relationship violence share their stories with their peers as a way to heal, a way to educate and a way to reach out a hand for survivors who have not yet come forward reminded me of the resiliency of the human spirit and filled me with renewed hope for the countless survivors of sexual violence in our community.  I will forever be touched by their stories and by their bravery.

Testimonials were followed by a candlelight vigil that took place on Ball Circle that acted as a way to bring survivors, loved ones and allies together to bear witness to the sexual violence that has forever impacted their own lives. Standing and looking out into a circle of over 100 members of the UMW community dedicating their candles to loved ones who had been impacted by sexual violence served as a hauntingly beautiful reminder of the widespread impact of violence and the profound effect that it has. I will carry the compassion, bravery and solidarity shown that night with me forever.

I feel truly honored to have been a part of this important event and I look forward to the opportunity for our agency to participate in the future. (If you are interested in the opening words shared by me, Kristin Harding, you can find them here: Take Back the Night Speech 2012)

2/3 of RCASA's Prevention Team at the TBTN Candlelight Vigil (Erin Longbottom and Kristin Harding)

With this renewed sense of passion and hope for the future, I am excited to share the opportunity for you to learn more about violence in our community at RCASA’s 1st Annual Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in Collaboration with the Child Advocacy Task Force this weekend. Join us on Friday for keynote speaker Ruby White-Starr followed by simultaneous prevention and intervention trainings and on Saturday for a trauma-informed art therapy workshop by Cathy Malchiodi, Ph.D, ATR-BC.

The flyer with more information is available here: RCASA’s First Annual Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in collaboration with the Child Advocacy Taskforce

Please register at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Q5GFBZL

Receive a $25 discount when you register for both days.

Prevention Tuesday – The Art of Learning Boundaries

In Education, Prevention on April 17, 2012 at 5:00 am

In previous posts, we have discussed how to talk to your younger kids about sexual assault appropriately.  However, if you’re looking for additional creative ideas and more fun times for your kids, this post is for you!  Kids should be talking and learning about their bodies early on, and art projects are a great way to get your kids engaged.  These projects and serve a variety of purposes ranging from simply identifying body parts to discussing boundaries and body rules.

These projects are taken from http://www.everythingpreschool.com/themes/bodyparts/art.htm

Silhouette Art

What You Need:

  • Paper
  • Bright Light
  • Glue
  • Art Supplies of your choice                                                                                                                        

What You Do:

  • Use a bright light, a projector, or the sun and take a piece of construction paper and trace the silhouette of your children on the paper.
  • Cut out the silhouette and place a piece of black paper under it.
  • Glue it onto a large piece of colored paper.
  • Now let the children decorate the white frame.

“The Shape of Me” Collage

What You Need:

  • Large Paper
  • Magazines
  • Glue

What You Do:

  • Trace and cut out your children from the paper.
  •  Let them go through magazines and cut out things that they like.
  •  They can then paste them on the cut out and you have a collage of the child

Paper Plate Face

What You Need:

  • Crayons/Markers
  • Yarn
  • Paper Plates
  • Various Collage Materials of Your choosing

What You Do:

  • Have your children look in mirror and create their face on a paper plate.

Hand Apple Tree

What You Need:

  • Paint
  • Paper
  • Other Materials you choose

What You Do:

  • First paint the kids hand brown and press it on paper to make a tree trunk.
  • Then Give the kids red, yellow, and green paint as well as any other supplies you choose.
  • Then let the kids create their own apple tree.

RCASA Prevention Tuesday: Sexual Assault in the LGBTQQIA Community

In Advocacy, Education, Prevention on April 10, 2012 at 5:00 am

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness month, I would like to bring some light to an issue that often has a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding around it, which is sexual assault within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning community.

Sexual assault within the LGBTQ community is a subject that is slowly receiving more attention, thanks to the work of many great organizations such as the NCAVP, FORGE, The Northwest Network, and more. However, many people may still not be aware of how sexual violence specifically affects LGBTQ individuals.

First I’ would like to share a few statistics about sexual assault specific to LGBTQ people:

  • In a study of 162 gay men and 111 lesbians, 52% reported at least one incident of sexual coercion by same sex partners.
  • Gay men experienced 1.6 incidents per person; while lesbians experienced 1.2 incidents per person. (1)
  •  A 1991 study of university students reported that of their sample of gay/bi-sexual students (including both gay men and lesbians) approximately 18% had been victims of rape, approximately 12% had been victims of attempted rape, and approximately 37% had been victims of sexual coercion. (1)
  • There were 2,552 reported anti-gay incidents in 1998, of these 88 were sexual assaults/rapes. (1)
  • According to a study conducted in Massachusetts, young lesbians and bisexual girls experienced more sexual harassment than heterosexual girls. 72% of lesbian and bisexual girls reported that they were “called sexually offensive names” by their peers, compared with 63% of heterosexual girls. Lesbians and bisexual girls were significantly more likely than heterosexual girls to be “touched, brushed up against, or cornered in a sexual way (63% as compared to 52% of heterosexual girls) and to be grabbed or have their clothing pulled in a sexual way (50% compared to 44%). 23% of young lesbian and bisexual girls reported that their peers had “attempted to hurt them in a sexual way (attempted rape or rape),” while 6% of the heterosexual girls surveyed had experienced sexual violence of this nature.” (2)
  • According to the First National Survey of Transgender Violence, 13.7% of 402 persons reported being a victim of rape or attempted rape. (2)

These are just a few statistics to give you a general idea about the nature of sexual assault in relation to LGBTQ people. It’ is important to note that LGBTQ people who are sexually harassed/assaulted can be targeted because of their sexual orientation, and as pointed out in the statistic about the harassment of lesbian and bisexual girls, are more likely to receive harassment of that nature than their heterosexual peers are.

Unfortunately though, there are many complications for those in the LGBTQ population when potentially seeking help. While all populations affected by sexual assault face barriers, there are unique barriers and problems for LGBTQ people when it comes to reporting and understanding violence.  Some of these issues include:

  • Fear of being “outed” to family, law enforcement, employers, etc.
  • Fear of harassment from law enforcemen.
  •  Fear that they will not be believed or taken seriously, due to stereotypes of who can be victims/perpetrators of assault (I.E. women cannot be the perpetrators, men cannot be victims, a woman cannot be raped by another woman, etc.)
  • Belief that reporting will support the homophobic stereotype that LGBTQ people are predatory and promiscuous, or belief that by reporting they are “betraying” the LGBTQ community
  • LGBTQ communities are often small and close-knit, therefore a survivor will be unwilling to seek services if they believe their only option is to go to an LGBTQ center
  • May believe that sexual assault is simply something that “happens” and is part of coming out and being part of the community

(this list adapted from information taken from CALCASA’s publication “Supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Survivors of Sexual Assault, http://calcasa.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/LGBT-Survivors.pdf)

While we as service providers cannot necessarily control the actions of the police or other parties involved, we should serve as role models as to how LGBTQ survivors should be treated and take a stand against any mistreatment that we see in these cases.  For those who are not service providers, hopefully you have gained some insight into how to better support a friend or family member who has been affected by this issue. It is only by continuing to educate ourselves and better understanding how sexual violence affects LGBTQ people that we can build safer spaces for survivors and spread more awareness about the barriers they face.

1. Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault: Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered (LGBT) Populations and Sexual Assault, http://www.wcasa.org/file_open.php?id=151

2. CALCASA’s 2008 report on Rape and Violence, http://www.calcasa.org/stat/CALCASA_Stat_2008.pdf

Volunteer Corner-SPEAK OUT!

In Volunteer on April 1, 2012 at 5:59 am

RCASA wants you to Speak Out!

Speak Out! if you are a survivor who would like some help.

Speak Out! if you know someone who has been assaulted and are angry, confused, and just need to talk to someone.

Speak Out! if you have questions about “what to do next” if you or someone you know is sexually assaulted.

Speak Out! by volunteering to help RCASA with outreach events, office work, and fund-raising events.

Speak Out!
  RCASA is here to help survivors and anyone else affected by sexual assault.

Speak Out! for a safer community!

Please call RCASA’s CONFIDENTIAL, FREE, 24 HOUR hotline
(540) 371-1666 to talk today.

RCASA’s Friday Facts: Sexual Assault of Men

In Outreach, Sexual Assault Awareness on March 30, 2012 at 5:00 am

Rape can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Any male can be the victim of sexual assault, regardless of age, class, race, disability or sexual orientation.

Although few men expect to be raped, it happens more than most people realize.  Approximately one in twelve adults seen by Sexual Assault Services are men.

Thousands of men are raped each year, yet only a fraction of these assaults are reported.  Male rape is one of the most under reported of crimes; male rape survivors are among the most under-served crime victims.

In our society, enormous stigma is associated with being the victim of sexual assault.

Survivors of sexual assault frequently encounter unsupportive or even hostile reactions from the criminal justice system, social service providers, family friends and lovers.

As a result, male survivors of sexual assault too often suffer the enormous trauma that rape can create in isolation and silence, trying to forget that the assault ever happened. Below are several common myths associated with male sexual assault followed by a brief outline of the facts.

Myth: A strong man can´t be raped.  He must have consented. 
Fact: In fact, being strong is no defence against rape and just because a man did not fight off his attacker does not mean he consented.  Surprise, a weapon, threats, being outnumbered or frozen by fear, makes fighting back impossible for most victims.  Any man can be raped when his attacker, for whatever reason, has more power.

Myth: Men are the offenders of sexual assault not the victims.
Fact: Although most offenders of sexual violence are men, men can also be victims.

Myth: Only gay men are raped.
Fact: Both heterosexual and homosexual men are raped and statistics show that victims are more likely to be straight than gay.  Sexual preference is not generally relevant, except perhaps where the victim is the target of an attack motivated by homophobia.

Myth: Only gay men rape other men.
Fact: Both heterosexual and homosexual men rape other men. Those who commit sexual assault are motivated by the desire for power over others and so sexual preference is not particularly relevant to them.

Myth: Men do not usually know their assailant.
Fact: Although men are sometimes sexually assaulted by strangers, it is more common for them to know their attacker.  Sexual Assault Services see men who have been raped by strangers, acquaintances, family members, teachers, colleagues, youth leaders, and others.

 If it´s someone you know, it´s not rape.
Fact: Your rights over your body are the same whoever is involved.  If the attacker is someone you know and trust, the abuse is in many ways worse.

Myth: If a victim is sexually aroused during a sexual assault, it means he wants to be raped.
Fact: Sometimes males who are being raped experience or are forced into a state of sexual arousal.  This does not mean that the individual wants to be raped.  This response, which may be involuntary, is one way the body chooses to protect itself from the physical and emotional trauma of the attack.

Myth: Men can’t be raped.
Fact: Any person can be the victim of rape.  Although outdated laws in NY State define rape of males as “sodomy”, the reality of the crime and the intensity of its impact make sexual assault one of the most devastating acts of violence a male can experience.

Myth: Rape of men only happens in prison.
Fact: Those who claim that rape of males happens only in prisons contribute to the continuing denial of the problem of rape in the larger community.  Sexual assault can occur anytime, anyplace.

Myth: All rape victims are young and weak.
Fact: Any male, no matter how old or strong, can be the victim of sexual assault.

Myth: The best way to cope with rape is to forget about it.
Fact: Denying the impact of rape can have serious emotional consequences.  Virtually any reaction is normal.  These can include anger, fear, guilt, self-blame, denial, depression, sexual dysfunction, sleeplessness, feelings of helplessness, feelings of being out of control and difficulty with concentration.  The intensity of these feelings can contribute to the individual’s decision not to tell anyone about the assault.

Men who have been raped are often very reluctant to seek help.  They are accustomed to bottling things up rather than talking about them.  Their reluctance to speak out may be increased by the fact that they are misled by some of the myths and misconceptions about men and rape, which are common in the community.  Although it can be hard at first to talk about the effects of being assaulted, most people find that it is very helpful to do so.

RCASA Volunteer Corner

In Sexual Assault Awareness, Volunteer on March 4, 2012 at 5:44 am

Today I am going to share the final part of a three part series about Date Rape Drugs.

First week:  What are date rape drugs, what do they look like?

Last week: What are the effects of date rape drugs on my body?

This week: Are there ways to tell if I have been drugged?  What should I do if I think I may have been drugged.

Are there ways to tell if I might have been drugged and raped?

It is often hard to tell. Most victims don’t remember being drugged or assaulted. The victim might not be aware of the attack until 8 or 12 hours after it occurred. These drugs also leave the body very quickly. Once a victim gets help, there might be no proof that drugs were involved in the attack. But there are some signs that you might have been drugged:

  • You feel drunk and haven’t drunk any alcohol — or, you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual.
  • You wake up feeling very hung over and disoriented or having no memory of a period of time.
  • You remember having a drink, but cannot recall anything after that.
  • You find that your clothes are torn or not on right.
  • You feel like you had sex, but you cannot remember it.

What should I do if I think I’ve been drugged and raped?

  • Get medical care right away. Call 911 or have a trusted friend take you to a hospital emergency room. Don’t urinate, douche, bathe, brush your teeth, wash your hands, change clothes, or eat or drink before you go. These things may give evidence of the rape. The hospital will use a “rape kit” to collect evidence.
  • Call the police from the hospital. Tell the police exactly what you remember. Be honest about all your activities. Remember, nothing you did — including drinking alcohol or doing drugs — can justify rape.
  • Ask the hospital to take a urine (pee) sample that can be used to test for date rape drugs. The drugs leave your system quickly. Rohypnol stays in the body for several hours, and can be detected in the urine up to 72 hours after taking it. GHB leaves the body in 12 hours. Don’t urinate before going to the hospital.
  • Don’t pick up or clean up where you think the assault might have occurred. There could be evidence left behind — such as on a drinking glass or bed sheets.
  • Get counseling and treatment. Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. A counselor can help you work through these emotions and begin the healing process. Calling a crisis center or a hotline is a good place to start.

RCASA 24 hour/7days a week

No Cost Hotline: (540) 371-1666

RCASA Volunteer Corner

In Sexual Assault Awareness on February 26, 2012 at 5:35 am

Today I am going to share the second part of a three part series about Date Rape Drugs.

Last week:  What are date rape drugs, what do they look like?

This week: What are the effects of date rape drugs on my body?

Next week: Are there ways to tell if I have been drugged?  What should I do if I think I may have been drugged.

What effects do these drugs have on the body?

These drugs are very powerful. They can affect you very quickly and without your knowing. The length of time that the effects last varies. It depends on how much of the drug is taken and if the drug is mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Alcohol makes the drugs even stronger and can cause serious health problems — even death.


The effects of Rohypnol can be felt within 30 minutes of being drugged and can last for several hours. If you are drugged, you might look and act like someone who is drunk. You might have trouble standing. Your speech might be slurred. Or you might pass out. Rohypnol can cause these problems:

  • Muscle relaxation or loss of muscle control
  • Difficulty with motor movements
  • Drunk feeling
  • Problems talking
  • Nausea
  • Can’t remember what happened while drugged
  • Loss of consciousness (black out)
  • Confusion
  • Problems seeing
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Stomach problems
  • Death


GHB takes effect in about 15 minutes and can last 3 or 4 hours. It is very potent: A very small amount can have a big effect. So it’s easy to overdose on GHB. Most GHB is made by people in home or street “labs.” So, you don’t know what’s in it or how it will affect you. GHB can cause these problems:

  • Relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Problems seeing
  • Loss of consciousness (black out)
  • Seizures
  • Can’t remember what happened while drugged
  • Problems breathing
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Slow heart rate
  • Dream-like feeling
  • Coma
  • Death


Ketamine is very fast-acting. You might be aware of what is happening to you, but unable to move. It also causes memory problems. Later, you might not be able to remember what happened while you were drugged. Ketamine can cause these problems:

  • Distorted perceptions of sight and sound
  • Lost sense of time and identity
  • Out of body experiences
  • Dream-like feeling
  • Feeling out of control
  • Impaired motor function
  • Problems breathing
  • Convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Memory problems
  • Numbness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Slurred speech

Are these drugs legal in the United States?

Some of these drugs are legal when lawfully used for medical purposes. But that doesn’t mean they are safe. These drugs are powerful and can hurt you. They should only be used under a doctor’s care and order.

  • Rohypnol is not legal in the United States. It is legal in Europe and Mexico, where it is prescribed for sleep problems and to assist anesthesia before surgery. It is brought into the United States illegally.
  • Ketamine is legal in the United States for use as an anesthetic for humans and animals. It is mostly used on animals. Veterinary clinics are robbed for their ketamine supplies.
  • GHB was recently made legal in the United States to treat problems from narcolepsy (a sleep disorder). Distribution of GHB for this purpose is tightly restricted.

Is alcohol a date rape drug? What about other drugs?

Any drug that can affect judgment and behavior can put a person at risk for unwanted or risky sexual activity. Alcohol is one such drug. In fact, alcohol is the drug most commonly used to help commit sexual assault. When a person drinks too much alcohol:

  • It’s harder to think clearly.
  • It’s harder to set limits and make good choices.
  • It’s harder to tell when a situation could be dangerous.
  • It’s harder to say “no” to sexual advances.
  • It’s harder to fight back if a sexual assault occurs.
  • It’s possible to blackout and to have memory loss.

The club drug “ecstasy” (MDMA) has been used to commit sexual assault. It can be slipped into someone’s drink without the person’s knowledge. Also, a person who willingly takes ecstasy is at greater risk of sexual assault. Ecstasy can make a person feel “lovey-dovey” towards others. It also can lower a person’s ability to give reasoned consent. Once under the drug’s influence, a person is less able to sense danger or to resist a sexual assault.

Even if a victim of sexual assault drank alcohol or willingly took drugs, the victim is not at fault for being assaulted. You cannot “ask for it” or cause it to happen.


RCASA 24 hour/7days a week

No Cost Hotline: (540) 371-1666


source http://www.womenshealth.gov

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