Sexual assault is a problem that unfortunately is significantly underreported, especially given the frequency sexual assault occurs. Every 73 seconds a person is sexually assaulted. That’s almost one person every single minute. On average there are over 433,00 victims of sexual assault each year, with the majority of victims being between the ages of 12 and 34 years old. In 2016, Child Protective Services found strong evidence that over 57,000 young people were victims of sexual abuse. One in 9 girls are victims of sexual assault and 1 in 53 boys are victims of sexual assault. 82% of all victims under the age of 18 are female. The impact that sexual assault has on its victims is extraordinary.

Victims are about 4 times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse, about 4 times more likely to experience post traumatic stress disorder as adults, and about 3 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults. In 80% of incidents of sexual assault or abuse the perpetrator was a parent or well-known relative to the victim. 88% of perpetrators have been found to be male, while 9% have been found to be female. These statistics are important because it is often a hard uphill battle to have one’s experience of sexual abuse or assault recognized and validated by others. If you are reading this, it hopefully will provide you with the backing and support you feel that you need to have your sexual assault heard, validated and recognized by a mental health professional. 1 out of every 6 women has been the victim of a completed or nearly completed rape. That works out to 17.7 million women. Females, ages 16-19, are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. Women ages 18-24 who are college students are 3 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence.

All of these statistics are presented to contradict messaging many receive minimizing the impact and severity of sexual assault on men and women, and to give strength and support to those of you who have been affected to see therapy as a place to process and work to overcome the impact and traumatization of having survived sexual assault. It is imperative that you know that your experience will be validated and recognized as the trauma it was. To begin with, it is crucial you feel you have found a safe space for you to begin to come to understand the implications of sexual assault on your life: your trauma responses, reactivity to sexual aggression, roles you play in relationships, your connection to sex, and your sense of safety. Paying attention to these and other factors is important in processing what is a lifelong experience of being a sexual assault survivor. It is important that you know and have confidence that the severity and lasting impact of your sexual assault is recognized by your therapist. Implicit memories or reactions accompany surviving sexual assault and abuse, and it is crucial that these ways of coping with and managing the affects of sexual assault be recognized and fostered in your therapy to increase your capacity to cope with surviving sexual abuse.

Survivors of sexual assault often exhibit behaviors and methods of coping with perceived sexual threat in a way that is engrained into behavior due to repressed memories and as a means of surviving sexual assault that is not at the forefront of a survivor’s mind – it is instinctual and representative of repressed or suppressed responses to sexual violence. The last thing a survivor of sexual assault needs is to feel that he or she needs to convince his or her therapist of the sexual abuse that was inflicted upon him or her. The statistics demonstrate the necessity of providing support and validation both for the implicit memories associated with sexual assault and the behavioral, emotional and physical coping mechanisms that are employed in response to having survived sexual aggression. It is imperative that you feel that your experience and history is received and processed with respect, sensitivity and met with methods for coping with sexual assault that should accompany someone brave enough to share this part of their history with a professional. 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape. 30% of women report symptoms of PTSD 9 months after the rape. 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide. 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide. Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime. My hope is that you feel that you can begin to have a conversation openly and without fear of judgment – that the severity of sexual assault is taken seriously and your healing and recovery is a priority for your treatment.

Survivors of sexual assault often exhibit behaviors and methods of coping with perceived sexual threat in a way that is engrained into behavior due to repressed memories and as a means of surviving sexual assault that is not at the forefront of a survivor’s mind – it is instinctual and representative of repressed or suppressed responses to sexual violence. The last thing a survivor of sexual assault needs is to feel that he or she needs to convince his or her therapist of the sexual abuse that was inflicted upon him or her. The statistics demonstrate the necessity of providing support and validation both for the implicit memories associated with sexual assault and the behavioral, emotional and physical coping mechanisms that are employed in response to having survived sexual aggression. It is imperative that you feel that your experience and history is received and processed with respect, sensitivity and met with methods for coping with sexual assault that should accompany someone brave enough to share this part of their history with a professional. 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape. 30% of women report symptoms of PTSD 9 months after the rape. 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide. 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide. Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime. My hope is that you feel that you can begin to have a conversation openly and without fear of judgment – that the severity of sexual assault is taken seriously and your healing and recovery is a priority for your treatment.