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Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Day: Sexual assault and substance abuse

Despite increased awareness that covering up a horrible experience like sexual abuse can have harmful consequences for the sufferer as well as the society as a whole, the fact remains that such acts are normally concealed, suppressed and not discussed openly. No wonder, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

Furthermore, according to the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) only about 16 percent of all rapes are ever reported to law enforcement agencies. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges the fact, according to which one in five women reports sexual assault at some point in life.

Sexual abuse or assault can simply be explained as any type of sexual activity that an individual does not agree to. It includes, but is not limited to, inappropriate touching, vaginal, oral or anal penetration, non-consensual sexual intercourse, rape, attempted rape, stealthing (secretly removing condom during sex), child molestation, etc.

Considering the statistics, there is an urgent need to raise awareness about sexual violence. RAINN observes the third Thursday of every September as the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Day. This year, the day is being observed on September 21. The annual event focuses on organizing grassroots programs to empower and educate people about risk reduction and available recovery resources for victims of sexual assault.

Sexual assault and substance abuse

There is an intrinsic link between sexual assault and substance abuse. Victims of sexual abuse often develop a dependence on substances to ebb their trauma and pain. Moreover, those addicted to any substance stand a higher risk of experiencing sexual assault.

According to the Journal of Traumatic Stress, 90 percent of women who become dependent on alcohol were either sexually abused as a child or suffered severe violence at the hands of their parents. This does not mean that everyone who faces sexual assault turns to alcohol or drugs, only that the likelihood is high in cases where:

  • Victims sustain major physical injuries after the assault.
  • Someone in the victim’s family or close friend circle uses substances.
  • Victims had or have body image issues or low self-esteem.
  • Victims have experienced trauma in the past.
  • The sexual assault was prolonged.
  • Victims also suffer from a mental disorder.

Though there is no set way to predict which victims will turn to substance abuse, the ordeal, stress, agony and the psychological outcomes associated with the act determine who have trouble overcoming the incident on their own and thus may resort to substance abuse.

Signs of substance abuse

It is difficult to help someone get over the trauma of a sexual assault. However, observing signs of alcohol or drug abuse and seeking professional help can help the person in the long run. Some of the signs that one can look for include:

Physical changes like sudden weight gain or loss, red eyes, dilated pupils, persistent cough or runny nose. Apart from these, restlessness, change in sleep patterns, and lack of concentration also signal drug or alcohol abuse.

Behavioral changes like secretive behavior, hiding whereabouts, new social patterns, not talking about friends, having difficulty in telling where they have been, new friends or hangout places, etc. Changing the social circle may also indicate that somebody close to the victim might have assaulted him/her.

Medical intervention can help

Dealing with sexual assault can not only be difficult, but also overwhelming. Studies of adults disclosing the sexual assault suggest that factors such as the age at the first incident, relationship to the assaulter, severity of abuse, gender, ethnicity, cultural practices, etc. influence when the person will talk about the episode.

If you or a loved one is addicted to alcohol or any other substance, especially because of a past incident, it is important to seek immediate professional help. Call our 24/7 helpline 855-441-4405 for information about medical support from credible alcohol abuse treatment centers near you. You can even chat online with our representatives to know more about drug and alcohol addiction treatment options that would work for you.

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