New Study Links Sexual Trauma to Ongoing Health Problems

A new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has found significant links between sexual trauma and ongoing health problems in women. The study found that mid-life women who experienced sexual assault or harassment were likely to experience long-term health consequences. In fact, sexual trauma put women at health risks for high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

The study included 304 nonsmoking women without cardiovascular disease between the ages of 40 and 60. The women underwent physical measurements, medical history, and questionnaire psychosocial assessments. Of the women recruited for the study:

  • 19 percent reported experiencing sexual harassment
  • 22 percent reported experiencing sexual assault
  • 10 percent reported experiencing both

JAMA Study Health Consequences

Women in the study who reported period sexual assault were three times more likely to experience depression and twice as likely to suffer elevated anxiety compared to women without a history of sexual trauma.

Additionally, women who experienced sexual violence were twice as likely to develop problems sleeping, such as insomnia.

Women exposed to workplace sexual harassment on average had higher blood pressure than women who did not. These levels, however, were not significant enough to put them at risk for stroke, aneurysms, kidney disease, heart attacks and other forms of heart disease.

The study also found that sexual harassment is closely tied to high levels of triglycerides—a type of fat lipid in the blood and a risk factor for heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for U.S. women.

Additional Effects of Sexual Trauma on the health of Women

Sexual trauma is prevalent for women and carries long-lasting effects well beyond acts by a perpetrator. Sexual harassment and sexual assault lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes. Those who experience sexual trauma are at an increased risk of using drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and other dangerous street drugs. Sexual violence can affect a number of areas in a survivor’s life, including:

Physical Effects of Sexual Assault

  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Soreness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Fractured or dislocated bones
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Pregnancy

Mental Effects of Sexual Assault

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Disassociation (unable to focus on work, school work and inability to be present in everyday life)
  • Withdrawal from family or increasingly combative relationships

Emotional Effects of Sexual Assault

  • Numbness
  • Loss of control
  • Helplessness
  • Fear
  • Changes in trusting others; for children, this can manifest as a mistrust of adults.
  • Anger
  • Self-blame/ guilt
  • Shock
  • Survivors can sometimes develop feelings of being damaged or undeserving of a better life. In some cases, survivors can turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with the overwhelming feelings of sexual assault.

Who is likely to experience sexual trauma?

According to RAINN, a sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds in America. On average, about 321,500 people suffer through rape or sexual assault each year in the United States. Young people between the ages of 18 to 34 are at the highest of sexual violence. In fact, this age demographic accounts for 54 percent of all sexual assaults. Click To Tweet

Women 18-24 in college are three times more likely to experience sexual violence. It also important to note that women in the same age group not in college are four times more likely to experience sexual violence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 percent of women will experience some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime. However, state by state sexual assault estimates ranges from 30 percent to 48 percent. Additionally, approximately 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape at some point in their lives. And 75 percent of women are estimated to have experienced workplace sexual harassment.

The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

Sexual assault and abuse can take its toll on your physical and mental well being, but you don’t have to go through it alone. The Carlson Law Firm is ready to guide you through the legal steps you or a loved one can to begin the process of rebuilding your life after a sexual assault. We can help you recover compensation for damages such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, relocation, lost wages and other medical expenses.

Our qualified Sexual Assault Attorneys can help you determine if a civil lawsuit is the right step for you. We can help you hold the perpetrator, land or homeowner, employer, school, hospital or another negligent party accountable for the harm you suffered.

Our compassionate, tireless legal team is the advocate you need on your side. We will fight for you with the knowledge, skill and passion for justice that you deserve. Contact our firm today for more information on how we can assist you with a civil sexual assault lawsuit.

At The Carlson Law Firm, we care and we can help.

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