About Sexual Abuse and Assault (Adults)
Whether your or a loved one has experienced sexual abuse/assault, we are glad you are here seeking resources. Sexual abuse/assault is a trauma.
Trauma is defined as an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. What this means is that, it makes sense you might be feeling and thinking differently about the world now. There is no right way to react to abnormal circumstances.
Sexual abuse/assault can include force, coercion, the absence of consent, manipulation, and the inability to provide consent. It is most common that people wait to tell someone about what happened. For people who have experienced child sexual abuse, the average age to tell someone is 52. People are also much more likely to be sexual abused/assaulted by someone they know, love, or trust. Advocates respect that it is difficult to seek support, build trust with others, and start the healing process with someone you have never met before.
- Ask why
- Feel nothing and everything all at once
- Be unsure of your decisions or question your own judgement
- Want to be like your old self
- Feel like no one understands
- Fear judgement
- Want to avoid everything and everyone
- Not trust people or yourself
- Have questions
- Mask your feelings for others
- Worry about what will happen next
- Minimize what happened or think that everything is "fine"
- Feel like it is your fault
This may be hard to hear right now, but we want you to know that whatever happened is not your fault. At Prevail, you can meet with an advocate. Advocates know it can feel scary, but believe in you. They care about your safety. Advocates understand the impact of trauma. This means that they listen, are empathetic, and focused on empowering you. They are really there to be with you whether that is to go to court, support you when you talk with the police, go to the hospital, make sure you have a safety plan, or help you get measures in place to increase your safety.
We hear from people all the time about being worried about how their partners or family are dealing with trauma too. They tell us that they do not want to burden them. That those support people have enough to worry about. So, we have an advocate that can meet with them too.
Trauma can also be isolating and silencing. It can feel like no one could possibly understand or relate to you. That’s why we believe there is strength in numbers. Prevail offers support groups in our office. These groups are for people who have experienced sexual abuse or sexual assault. Building relationships with people who “get it” can be valuable. We know walking into a room of strangers can feel intimidating AND there is power in not being alone. Connection is healing.
We know that layers of oppression and historical trauma can also impact our ability to feel safe to report abuse or even tell loved ones/friends about what is happening. Oppression can happen in individual relationships, but is often active in systems. Systems that are racist, patriarchal, xenophobic, ableist, classist, and homophobic perceive violence as isolated and individual issues. They fail to recognize the intersectionality of race, gender, and class that impact social and systematic polices. Often these polices, negatively impact minority groups and support “othering.” They also ignore the complex differences within these groups. Therefore, we support racial justice policies and believe in language access.
Men can also experience abuse. You may worry about reaching out for support because helping organizations only serve women. At Prevail, all people are welcome.