How are survivors in Pennsylvania affected by sexual violence?

In addition to physical injuries, people may experience emotional and psychological trauma as a result of sexual assaults, which may have lasting effects.

Unfortunately, people throughout the state of Pennsylvania commonly fall victim to sexual violence, including sexual assault and rape. In fact, there was an average of one rape reported to law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania every two hours and 17 minutes in 2014, according to the state's Uniform Crime Reporting System. Often, people only think about the physical effects of such violence. However, those who survive sexual assaults may experience a range of immediate and long-term emotional and psychological effects.

Emotional reactions

Following a sexual assault, it is common for people to experience a multitude of emotional effects. Sexual violence survivors are commonly fearful or distrustful following an attack. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that people who have been sexually assaulted may experience confusion, withdrawal or nervousness. In some cases, they may even feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed as a result of such attacks.

For some, these emotional reactions may lessen and eventually dissipate over time. For others, however, the emotional impact of a sexual assault may haunt them well after their physical injuries have healed.

Psychological consequences

The injuries that people suffer as a result of sexual violence may be psychological, as well as physical. According to the CDC, survivors of sexual abuse and assault may develop depression, generalized anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their attacks. The symptoms of these conditions may cause them issues with their everyday activities. They may also have relationship issues due to the psychological effects of sexual assaults.

Depression is a mood disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic. It causes many people to experience persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest. This condition may require long-term treatment, including medications and psychotherapy.

Generalized anxiety disorder is also a mood disorder. As a result of this condition, people may experience persistent worrying, an inability to let go of worries and difficulty concentrating. As is the case with depression, generalized anxiety disorder is often treated using medications, including antidepressants and sedatives. Psychological counseling is also commonly used to treat this condition.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a type of mental health condition. PTSD is triggered by terrifying events. Those who struggle with this condition may experience nightmares and flashbacks. PTSD may also cause people to have severe anxiety. The Mayo Clinic points out that cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing are among the types of psychotherapy that may be used to treat PTSD. Additionally, people may be prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

Seeking legal guidance

Dealing with the physical injuries resulting from sexual assaults is often difficult enough for people in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. Coping with the emotional and psychological impact, however, may be even more challenging. As a result of these effects, sexual assault survivors may require ongoing medical treatment, which may lead to undue medical costs. In some cases, their ability to work and provide for their families may also be affected. Therefore, those who have survived sexual violence may benefit from consulting with an attorney to learn more about their rights and options for pursuing financial compensation.