Sexual assault and some forms of gender-based violence are some of the most traumatic incidents that an individual can experience, and are known for leaving lasting physical, emotional, and mental scars on survivors.
According to data cited by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), assault and other forms of sexual violence is common among female students, noting that one in five women in college experiences fall victim to it within the first few months of their first and second semesters in college. While this statistic has been challenged, it is still clear that abuse, as well as harassment, and inappropriate behavior are still very much a reality on campus.
As noted by the OASH, while assault can happen to anyone, women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or gay are more likely to experience sexual assault on college campuses compared to their heterosexual peers.
A study published in the Journal of American College Health notes that sexual assault usually results in significant levels of anxiety and depression in young people.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), victims and survivors of sexual assault and violence are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, which can make it extremely difficult for them to adjust or cope. They may also experience flashbacks, which compound and renew the trauma every time it happens.
These after effects can all negatively impact the survivors’ education, as constant anxiety and depressive attacks can prevent them from pursuing their student life and studies as they should expect to.
Sexual assault survivors often report decreased class attendance
Individuals who have been sexually assaulted or violated often have trouble attending their classes. This is usually more prevalent in cases where the perpetrator is in the same class as the victim. People who have experienced sexual abuse may also display discomfort or anxiety when in large groups.
Sexual assault survivors often report an inability to focus on their classes and schoolwork
Survivors of campus sexual assault often have difficulty concentrating on even the simplest of school-related activities, such as reading and studying. According to studies cited by researcher Bailie Light in her thesis “The Effects of Sexual Victimization on College Women,” this is largely caused by preoccupation and fixation on other matters. Certainly, when you have had a traumatic encounter, study may be the last thing you are able to focus on.
Sexual assault survivors often experience decreased quality of work and grades
Researcher Carol E. Jordan of the University of Kentucky, noted in a study that there is significant evidence that rape or any other form of sexual violence has an identifiable impact on a student’s academic success, adding that women who have been sexually assaulted are likely to experience a sharp drop in the quality of their schoolwork and grades.
Sexual assault survivors are more likely to drop out of school
College-age students who experienced any form of sexual violence are more likely to end up dropping out of their programs, or at the very least, lose existing scholarships. This, according to survivors, is usually due to the academic struggle they experience in the wake of the abuse.
Sexual assault survivors are more likely to develop substance abuse problems
Sexual assault survivors are 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs. This could be linked to the survivors’ desire to cope with traumatic memories associated with the assault. This is not only an unhealthy and dangerous coping mechanism, but it also sets them up for more future problems.
Sexual assault can be one of the most violent and harrowing things a person can go through: it is degrading, incredibly traumatizing, and alienating. Not only that, but sexual assault also brings with it a lot of shame and guilt, due to the stigma attached to it.
If you know someone who is a sexual assault survivor, one way they can be helped is legally.