Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Sexual Trauma & Latent Challenges
Survivors of incest and sexual assault face many immediate and latent challenges related to and following the assault. Sexual assault can leave lasting emotional effects, which can create feelings of depression hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, anxiety, sleep/eating interruptions, PTSD, substance abuse (an attempt to dull and or mitigate the negative feelings associated with the sexual assault/abuse), sexually transmitted diseases, sexual dysfunctions, challenges with establishing and maintaining a relationship, trust issues, suicidal thoughts or ideations, etc. Survivors of sexual assault can also become pregnant as a result of the attack. Intense psychological pain as a result of the abuse can often take on physical pain such as body aches and feeling completely drained.
Flashes and or vivid images related to the abuse/assault can become an intrusive part of the survivors’ life, distorting and coloring future relationships. Specifically, some survivors in romantic relationships often experience problems during intimacy including but not limited to; difficulty establishing or sustaining arousal, difficulty achieving climax, experiencing flashes of the assault during or while trying to be intimate with significant other.
Counseling following abuse or assault is an essential part of a survivor’s recovery for many different reasons up to my not limited to;
Reducing or mitigating symptoms caused by the abuse
Identifying and accepting the sexual was not caused by the victim but the perpetrator
How to cope with fears and anxiety resulting from the abuse/assault
Establishing and building healthy relationships
Allowing the survivor to take away any power the perpetrator has over the survivor
Having the ability to successfully recover from the assault, i.e., living happy and healthy lives
Tiffany is a 35-year-old single female, with a very supportive family, and 1 close friend. Tiffany was abused by a family friend during childhood for several years, and has been unable to successfully establish and sustain relationships with those that are not family or her childhood friend who knew Tiffany before the abuse occurred. Recently, Tiffany become interested in a man that works at her job, however crippling fear and anxiety has prevented her from even responding to his “hello” in the morning. Whenever Tiffany finds herself fantasizing about her co-worker her mind becomes flooded with the images of the past abuse. When the flashes flood Tiffany’s mind she is often unable to move, partially paralyzed by the images, heart palpitations, and anxiety. Tiffany has never been in a long term healthy relationship as she becomes fearful, suspicious, or inadequate throughout the course of the relationship.
In response to discovering the neighbors abuse, Tiffany’s family sold the family home and decided to move as far away from their neighbor as possible. Fear and guilt has plagued the family as they felt they should have protected Tiffany, prevented the abuse, did not place so much trust in the neighbor, and felt extreme guilt they had “allowed” the abuse to occur and last for an extensive period of time. The family has never sought familial counseling or individual counseling for Tiffany. Is it too late to receive for Tiffany to enter counseling and receive therapeutic benefits?