Hidden Survivors: Students Who Have Been Sexually Abused
Many have never shared what happened to them. They have been too afraid, or too ashamed, or too mistrustful of their own perceptions. Some have told, only to be met with blame, dismissal, or disbelief. And some have concealed their experiences from their own consciousness, deeply burying memories and emotions. Although their stories remain largely unspoken, there are many more sexual abuse survivors among us than most of us would ever imagine. The statistics are sobering. According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network),
- 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually violated during their lifetime
- College age women are 4 times more likely than the general population to be sexually assaulted
- 15% of sexual abuse and rape victims are under age 12
- 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker
Sexual abuse and assault affects victims in a variety of ways. Regardless of the form of violation one has survived – non-consensual sexual contact by a stranger, acquaintance, family member, or partner; childhood sexual abuse or assault as an adult; abuse involving bodily penetration or no penetration - the psychological impact can be destructive to the individual, their well-being, and their relationships. Long-term challenges with self-esteem, body image, trust, intimacy, identifying feelings, and sexuality are common among survivors. Many experience struggles with concentration, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and addiction, all of which can impede school and work performance. Whether one was recently assaulted or abused long ago, if the emotional impact is not dealt with, its insidious effects will likely still be present years later.
To help yourself or someone you love, learning more about recovery from sexual abuse and assault can be a helpful start. There are many excellent online resources available. Among them:
It can also be very important to one's healing to talk to caring others, which may include disclosing to someone you trust, joining a support group, or beginning therapy with a trained professional such as a counselor, social worker, or psychologist. For more information about on-campus and community support, contact the NJCU Counseling Center at 201-200-3165, or the Speicher-Rubin Women’s Center at 201-200-3189.