Sexual Trauma Therapy: Meaning And Application

Sexual trauma is a term used to refer to the exposure of a person to sexually inappropriate behaviors, without their consent or when consent was not given freely. This can include but should not be limited to rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and/or unwanted sexual attention. There are many reasons why someone may experience this kind of trauma. For some people, it is a memory that they have difficulty processing because it causes them so much stress and anxiety. Other people may suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) due to the events that contributed to the trauma occurring in the first place. This can leave them with physical symptoms such as large amounts of tension in their muscles which may manifest themselves physically through headaches or insomnia for example. At times people may feel like their environment is dangerous and unable to relax around others.

What is Sexual Abuse?

An unwelcome and unconsented sexual encounter between two people of the same or different sexes is referred to as sexual abuse. When a male engages in sexual activity with a woman against her consent, it is considered deviant sexual behavior. People who are denied access to lawful possibilities for sexual fulfillment frequently engage in deviant sexual conduct. Risk factors for sexually transmitted illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, include deviant sexual conduct. This risk factor is more prevalent in cases of sexual assault and other abnormal sexual conduct, such as homosexuality. In cases of sexual assault, the victims' psychological health is often negatively impacted. Some of the typical signs of sexual abuse include posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, chronic stress, low self-esteem, and even engaging in revictimization.

Victims of sexual abuse suffer long-term effects. Victims of sexual assault have both direct and indirect effects. Sexual abuse may have both direct and indirect repercussions on victims, including psychological and physical problems as well as effects on relationships and social standing. Traumatic events shape human realizations and sentiments, learning and thought processes, as well as how we sense, assess, and perceive other people and the environment.

Victims of sexual assault are significantly impacted since posttraumatic stress disorder isn't just brought on by one horrific event but rather by a great deal of stress. Trauma from sexual assault is just as terrible as trauma from combat. The extreme stress brought on by sexual assault leads to posttraumatic stress disorder.

What are the Types of Sexual Abuse?

One in four men and one in three women, according to studies, have experienced some kind of physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives. These numbers are thought to be understated compared to the true prevalence of sexual assault since so many victims choose not to come forward. Additionally, only one of the five forms of physical or sexually abusive behavior is covered by these statistics.

Verbal − The use of spoken or written words to communicate, suggest, or imply sexual content is referred to as verbal sexual abuse. In social situations, the workplace, and the family, verbal sexual abuse occurs frequently. Even though it causes serious harm, crude humor is frequently tolerated in our culture. It can be challenging to cope with since we may sense a violation yet be afraid of the social or interpersonal repercussions of speaking up. Sexual jokes, physical characteristic mocking, explicit sexual descriptions, name-calling, remarks on physical growth, solicitation, unwelcome romantic approaches, sexting, stalking via phone calls or other texts, etc. are examples of verbal sexual abuse.

Covert − Abuse of this kind may take place without the victim's knowledge. Photography, social media stalking, spying on others, and sexual cyber-harassment are some examples. Without the victim's awareness, perpetrators will make an effort to satisfy their sexual needs.

Visual − Visually being exposed to inappropriate sexual material is abusive. This can involve being exposed to nudity, sexually explicit photographs, or sexting or airdropping without your consent.

Physical − Any non-consensual caressing, fondling, tickling, kissing, physical constraint, and any physical contact done in a sexual way or to the victim's sex organs are all considered to be this sort of abuse.

Ritualistic − Abuse of this kind frequently combines with a ritual or spiritual practice. Sometimes, criminals will try to convince themselves or others that what they are doing is a kind of worship or restitution to the victim. Genital mutilation, child marriage, incest rituals, or even incantations during abuse are examples of this type of sexual abuse.

What is Sexual Trauma?

Sexual abuse exposure is referred to as sexual trauma. Any improper, purposeful conduct meant to provide the offender with a sexual enjoyment is considered sexual abuse. 1 The conduct might be verbal, like humiliation or threats of sexual actions, physical, like being touched or grabbed in a sexual way, or it could be visual, like being forced to see sexual acts or pictures. These actions may result in physical harm, terrifying experiences, or even being coerced into engaging in sexual activity.

Symptoms of the Sexual Trauma

Sexual trauma affects people differently, especially depending on their age and support network. Sexual trauma survivors may manifest physical, behavioral, and/or emotional PTSD symptoms. It's critical to avoid discounting your or others' experiences because they don't exhibit the "typical" signs of survivors.

Among the warning signs and symptoms of sexual trauma are −

  • Modifications to sleep habits (more, less, frequent waking, nightmares, etc.)

  • Changes in friends or social conduct

  • Alterations in hygiene

  • Inadequate focus

  • Alterations in performance in job or school

  • Variations in mood (depressed, flat or numb, irritable, cries easily, etc.)

  • Practicing self-destructive habits.

  • Testing various compounds

  • Children acting out sexually (using provocative language or body language or doing sexual impersonations)

What is Sexual Trauma Therapy?

There are numerous different therapeutic approaches to sexual trauma. Therapy may provide a secure environment for a victim to go through their sexual trauma, including addressing any unfavorable or harmful beliefs they may have formed. You may utilize the skills and tools you get during therapy to manage unrelated stress for the rest of your life.

The purpose of therapy is to help the patient reduce trauma-related symptoms and gain control over how the traumatic incident and its triggers affect them. In essence, the objective is to assist the Survivor in becoming an Overcomer. There may be other models available, however, the following are some of the typical modalities utilized by mental health professionals.

Psychodynamic Therapy − Focuses on the impact of the sexual assault on the victim's sense of self and worldview in order to get insight into how to best support healing and recovery.

Cognitive Processing Therapy − For people who have suffered trauma, evidence-based cognitive behavioral treatment is available. This model emphasizes the survivor's healing and educates them on how to serve as their own therapist in the event that new issues crop up in the future.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy − is a research-backed form of psychotherapy that speeds up healing by changing the way the brain processes and retains traumatic memories and images. This concept includes both memory reconsolidation, which combines new information into old memories, and memory visualization techniques that are improved by horizontal eye motions.


Sexual abuse is a situation that causes a lot of worries. The victims of sexual abuse have severe negative effects on their reproductive and mental health. Due to the fact that it affects both the mother and the new-born, pregnant women are typically the worst affected. Some of the direct effects of sexual abuse include premature delivery, mother-fatal transfer of illnesses such as pelvic discomfort, vaginal bleeding, and urinary tract infection, among others.

Updated on: 02-Dec-2022


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