The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over a third of women in the United States experience some form of sexual trauma during their lifetime. Another 1 in 5 women report being the victim of rape or attempted rape. These experiences can occur very early in life. One in every eight women under the age of 10 are victims of rape and sexual abuse.
Sexual trauma can include one-time acts of violence or on-going sexual abuse committed by a family member, partner, or co-worker. Although these statistics are strikingly high, in reality the numbers are likely an underestimate. Many victims of sexual abuse are too embarrased to speak out or afraid of the consequences. Sexual harassment lawyers in SF can help victims to feel comfortable speaking out.
How Can Sexual Trauma Affect a Woman’s Brain in the Long-Term
Sexual Trauma has the potential to have detrimental effects on women in the form of (PTSD) post-traumatic stress disorder, which leads to recurrent and intrusive thoughts about the incident. PTSD, if left untreated, can worsen over time and cause a decline in a woman’s mental health, as well as potentially causing the victim to be a danger to oneself or others.
Women that suffer from sexual trauma are at a higher risk of poor brain health as they age in the form of increased chances of having disorders of the brain. Studies of trauma survivors’ brains indicate excess white matter hyperintensities, also known as leukoaraiosis, which are pre-indicators for strokes, dementia, multiple sclerosis, infection, and physical brain trauma.
The Effects of Sexual Trauma on a Woman’s Heart as She Ages
Another study found that female victims of sexual trauma are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. A study from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) reports that women with a history of sexual abuse or assault indicated increased instances of heart issues including, hypertension (high blood pressure), increased cholesterol, and abnormal blood sugar levels.
Sexual violence often leads the victim to an increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse, which has detremental effects on both the health of the brain and the cardiovascular system, as well as other harmful physical effects. The earlier in life the trauma and abuse occurs, the more likely and more damaging the physical and emotional consequences are likely to become.
What To Do If You’re A Victim of Sexual Trauma
Without a doubt, sexual trauma has lasting negative effects on a woman’s emotional, mental, and physical health. Never underestimate the damage abuse or assault can have on your brain and your heart. If you feel comfortable, discuss it with your healthcare provider, so you can discuss your risk factors and take preventative measures to keep your health in check.
Monitoring your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels is especially important to women with an increased risk of damage to their heart and blood vessels. Speaking with a mental health professional about your emotional and mental well-being will also help to prevent further damage to the brain and provide therapy for helpful healing from the sexual trauma.