Everyone’s experiences of sexual assault are different, and so the impact of sexual violence will differ greatly between young women. Below is a list of some of the common effects of sexual violence.

Impact on Emotional Health

A young woman may feel:

  • Isolated/alone
  • Self-hatred
  • Self-blame
  • Shame
  • Disbelief
  • Humiliation
  • Out of control
  • General loss of self-esteem
  • Dirty
  • Fearful
  • Disgust
  • Sadness
  • Numbness
  • Emptiness
  • Guilty
  • Angry

Impact on Physical Health

  • Self-mutilation
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Eating issues
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Physical injury
  • Contraction of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Loss of ability to carry children
  • Long term impacts in areas of reproductive and respiratory health

Impact on Mental Health

Sexual assault and abuse can have long-term impacts on the mental health of survivors also. Some of the common mental health issues for survivors include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Suicidality
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD
  • Dissociative Disorders

Impact on Social Health

  • Sexual abuse can tear families apart and may result in the young woman being isolated from her family
  • Isolation from friends
  • Homelessness
  • Loss of trust in people and the world in general
  • Difficulty forming healthy, trusting intimate relationships
  • Difficulty in the expression of her sexuality
  • Some young women may act out with violent and/or risk-taking behaviours
  • Many young women also miss out on vital parts of their education as a result of abuse and its impacts
  • The impact of sexual violence on the physical and emotional health of a young woman may mean that she is unable to participate in the workforce
  • Loss of meaning or purpose in life
  • Difficulty planning or imagining a future

The differences in the effects of sexual violence will depend on a number of variables. Some of these include:

  • Who the perpetrator is in relation to the young woman eg. Stranger, school friend, boyfriend, acquaintance, father, step-father, uncle, brother, mother
  • The age of the young woman/child when the abuse occurred
  • The duration of the abuse
  • The severity of the abuse
  • The frequency of the abuse
  • The appropriateness of the response to the young woman/child when she first discloses the violence
  • The presence of a non-offending primary care-giver in the young woman’s life who is understanding, caring and supportive
  • The number of other supports available to the young woman
  • Other trauma and distress in the young woman’s life.

Need to talk?

A young woman or someone close to her can ring Zig Zag on 3843 1823 and ask to speak to one of our sexual assault workers.