Sexual Assault and Trauma
Sexual assault, abuse, or rape are among the most difficult events one can experience. Survivors are often flooded by strong sensations of anger, fear, confusion and guilt. They may feel as if no one could understand them and their experience. A wide range of reactions to sexual assault is normal, and constitutes the mind’s efforts to overcome the traumatic event. Recovery from this type of trauma is a long process, and can take months or even years. Nevertheless, much like victims of other types of trauma, sexual assault victims can normally recover from trauma without any professional help, using the help and support of friends and family members.
What Is Sexual Assault?
- Sexual assault is any sexual behavior forced upon a person of any gender, without the person’s explicit consent. This includes uninvited touching of various body parts and attempts to remove clothing.
- Rape is sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral or anal) forced upon a person without their explicit consent. “Force” refers not only to physical force, but also to abuse of status, or taking advantage of a situation when the victim cannot make a lucid decision, such as following the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Consent is explicit approval given actively and freely, in words or unambiguous actions that doubtlessly indicate the person’s will to participate in the sexual act. Consent cannot be defined as valid when originating from submission to threat, blackmail, emotional manipulation, misuse of status or the victim’s inability to properly consider the situation (e.g., when the victim is drunk). Therefore, the initiator of the sexual act is obliged to ensure informed and explicit consent from their partner. Sexual activity without informed consent can be considered sexual assault.
Following sexual assault, many survivors feel confused and helpless facing the many decisions that must be made: reporting the incident to the police, going to the hospital, expectations for the next few days and weeks of recovery. In addition, many feel that their peers and loved ones do not understand the traumatic experience they went through, and therefore prefer to talk with people who underwent a similar experience. Israel’s rape crisis centers are prepared to assist sexual assault and rape survivors in every aspect of coping with the assault: from escorting the survivor to the hospital and the police, to providing mental support and referring the survivor to suitable professional treatment, when necessary. In addition, the help centers offer support and advice to the survivor’s family during the process of coping with the traumatic event.
For a list of Israeli organizations that assist survivors of sexual assault, click here.