Consequences Of Sexual Violence In Intimate Relationships

Survivors of sexual assault in intimate relationships often experience both short- and long-term effects that include psychological and physical impacts. Individual survivors' experiences are unique, and thus there is no one pattern of what aftermath may result; however, research findings lead us to some frequent experiences among survivors.

Psychological Effects

Survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence have reported a litany of negative psychological outcomes. The outcomes range from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidality and depression, to substance abuse.45,46 Survivors often report elevated risk for and experience of these types of outcomes. These experiences are often further compounded by increased feelings of anxiety, anger, humiliation, and guilt.15,16,26 Additionally, survivors are often at greater risk of sexual revictimization and health risk behaviors such as increased tobacco, alcohol, and drug use.47-51 Psychological effects on survivors can also influence future intimate relationships when leaving the offending partner, including challenges with trust, sexuality, and ultimate goals of initiating and sustaining healthy relationships.37,52

Physical Effects

Survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by a cohabitating partner or spouse often experience more severe forms of physical injuries, as compared with stranger or acquaintance sexual violence.53,54 Physical effects may include vaginal and anal injuries, cuts, bruises, soreness, broken bones, black eyes, stabbings, and torn muscles.32,46 Many of these physical consequences often result in chronic physical ailments and gynecological problems such as pelvic pain, miscarriages, and increased risk for sexually transmitted dis-eases.55,56 Often the gynecological-related health consequences for survivors relate back to power issues with an abusive partner. For example, a survi vor's attempts at condom use for risk protection from sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy may actually result in abusive behavior by a partner and unprotected sexual violence that increase the survivor's health risk.57 However, as with psychological impacts of sexual violence perpetrated by intimate partners, the physical consequences can also vary along a spectrum of possible impacts based on the survivor's individual experience.

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