What Are the Damaging Effects of Sexual Assault?



Sexual assault is defined as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. If a person does not explicitly agree to a sexual act, any further physical contact is considered sexual assault or for instance rape. Sexual assault is NEVER okay & should NEVER be tolerated.



Image taken from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/changing-the-narrative-surrounding-sexual-assault

Why Is It A Relevant Issue?

Sexual assault is a very common crime in the world, and more specifically speaking, in America. Even more specifically, here at Penn State, students receive a substantial amount of alerts reporting alleged sexual assault instances on campus. However, when reading these reports we do not often take into account the effects of these instances. According to “RAINN”, a leading movement against sexual assault, rape, and incest, an American citizen is sexually assaulted every 120 seconds, or two minutes. That rate amounts to an average of 207,754 sexual assault victims a year. This is why sexual assault is such an important issue to promote awareness about. In other words, as I am typing this blog and as you are reading, someone somewhere is being sexually assaulted, which is extremely alarming.

Image taken from http://www.paolabailey.com/sexual_assault_on_college_campuses

Image taken from http://www.paolabailey.com/sexual_assault_on_college_campuses

Where Does Science Come Into Play?


Image taken from https://lehacker.com/brain-facts-revealing/

Believe it or not, sexual assault actually has many effects on the brain of the victim. Psychological effects on the victim are in phases, which start as immediate effects and turn into chronic effects. However, keep in mind that not every victim reacts to sexual assault the same way. Some examples of immediate psychological effects following a sexual assault include anxiety, shame or guilt, shock, distrust of others, flashbacks, emotional detachment, and fear. Examples of chronic psychological effects are depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, decrease of interest or avoidance in sex, attempted or completed suicide, and low self esteem, even causing a victim to blame him or herself for the attack.

Based on a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, sexually molested and non-sexually molested children showed various to no psychological effects. Of the twenty-eight children reviewed in the study, the females showed the most extreme levels of emotional distress. Also, almost half of the sexually assaulted children were referred for psychiatric evaluation.  In another study, it was concluded that rape victims with post-traumatic stress disorder show great signs of alexithymia. This basically explains how sexual assault victims can become emotionally deprived.


Image taken from http://slideplayer.com/slide/5202031/

Multiple studies, including randomized control trials, have also concluded that childhood sexual abuse actually effect the brain’s genital sensation regions, among other things. This can cause sexually abused women to have less desires and sensations sexually. During a randomized control trial, the sexually abused women (out of the twenty-eight total abused women) showed signs of changes in their somatosensory cortexes (“paints a picture” of the body for the brain, and controls sensations) further concluding to have thinning in areas that had genitalia. More details on these studies can be reviewed HERE.


Are There Undiscovered Effects?

YES! There are so many victims of sexual assault in the world, so how can we accurately measure the true scientific effects victims face? The before-mentioned effects are the ones noted toimgres be most commonly seen in sexual assault victims, but are there more that have been undiscovered? I think it is interesting to think about, noting that there would have to be huge experiments and surveys done (which still can be inaccurate). This just goes to say that regardless of the mentioned studies, there still is no concrete definition of the effects sexual assault plays on victims. So there has to be many other developing effects on the human brain that we have not yet discovered.



  • Szalavitz, Maia. “Sexual and Emotional Abuse Scar the Brain in Specific Ways | TIME.com.” Time. Time, 5 June 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <http://healthland.time.com/2013/06/05/sexual-and-emotional-abuse-scar-the-brain-in-specific-ways/>.
  • Heersink, Olivia. “Changing The Narrative Surrounding Sexual Assault.” Odyssey. N.p., 13 June 2016. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <https://www.theodysseyonline.com/changing-the-narrative-surrounding-sexual-assault>.
  • Thompson, Dennis, Jr. “The Aftermath of Childhood Sexual Abuse.” EverydayHealth.com. N.p., 16 July 2009. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <http://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/childhood-sexual-abuse.aspx>.
  • “Sexual Violence: Consequences.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 June 2016. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/consequences.html>.
  • “Proximate Effects of Sexual Abuse in Childhood: A Report on 28 Children.” Proximate Effects of Sexual Abuse in Childhood: A Report on 28 Children | American Journal of Psychiatry. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 1 Apr. 2006. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. <http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/ajp.139.10.1252>.
  • “Alexithymia in Victims of Sexual Assault: An Effect of Repeated Traumatization?” Alexithymia in Victims of Sexual Assault: An Effect of Repeated Traumatization? | American Journal of Psychiatry. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. <http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/ajp.150.4.661>.
  • “The Definition of Alexithymia.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/alexithymia>.

3 thoughts on “What Are the Damaging Effects of Sexual Assault?

  1. ljj126

    First off, kudos for blogging about such a sensitive issue, and yes it does effect everyone. All the research I have done on sexual assault is simply gut wrenching, but people fail to understand that often times the victim ‘s mental state surround the event is more painful to deal with. This website had some of stats that you researched but it also has some other factors. https://mainweb-v.musc.edu/vawprevention/research/mentalimpact.shtml
    There are also several professors on our campus that have studied this terrible epidemic and are always willing to give out useful information. Did you come across any rates of reporting the event? I believe only 25% get reported to authorities, although that might have changed since last I looked it up.
    Once again, good job for taking on a really heavy issue.

  2. Amanda Grace Thieu

    This is so prevalent in today’s society. Especially on college campuses like Penn State. Rape is a disgusting and unforgiving act. What’s interesting is that you focused a lot on the victim’s psychological effects after the rape. I think we need to fund more programs for rape victims like mental health supports and create a safer environment on college campuses. It’ll be interesting also to focus on the psychological aspects of the rapist’s mind. If there’s anything wrong with their brain that’s making them rape.

  3. Kate Billings

    I think the issue of this post is extremely prevalent right now, especially on college campuses. Sexual assaults happen all the time and I think that there need to be actions taken to help the victims. Also I feel that whoever doing the sexual assault needs to be given a harsher punishment, especially on college campuses. I have heard many stories where girls have told universities about being sexually assaulted and the person that did it to them was not given a large enough punishment. I think that in most cases of sexual assault the person doing it should be kicked off of campus. There are many damaging consequences that sexual assault produced and they can inhibit a person from preforming to their fullest in school. No one should have to deal with the psychological effects of sexual assault.

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