Hundreds of thousands of Americans are sexually assaulted each year. Indeed, many of the statistics surrounding sexual assault are shocking, and what’s even more heartbreaking is that victims of abuse have increased risk of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. This is especially true if the abuse occurred during childhood or adolescence, and if the abuse was sexual in nature.
“The person using [drugs and alcohol] is not using them to have a problem. They’re using drugs to find a solution,” says Dr. Vincent Felitti via Fix.com. Felitti is the former Chief of Preventive Medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego and founder of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study. Felitti’s well-respected ACE study shows a link between the number of traumatic events one experiences during childhood, and the likelihood that the person will struggle with drug or alcohol addiction in adulthood. (More information on the ACE study can be found here.)
There is a definite link between sexual abuse and addiction. Fortunately, there are some actions we can take to combat and reverse this concerning trend:
Understand Sexual Assault & Abuse
Sexual abuse is as any undesired sexual act that is forced upon one person by another person. This can range from molestation, to sexual assault, to rape, or even gender-based hate crimes, to name a few.
Reduce Isolation and Loneliness
Feelings of shame, guilt, and loneliness can lead victims to become withdrawn and isolated. Reducing these feelings is critical to recovery. A Voice for the Innocent allows victims to seek self care resources, get support from others, and even share their personal stories of surviving abuse (when and if they feel ready).
Those who have an addiction should seek out a treatment facility. For women who’ve experienced sexual trauma, women-only facilities are a great choice.
Because there are sometimes children involved, and also because there is a high chance that family members, spouses or loved ones might become codependent, it is important for loved ones to maintain their own self care and seek out support for codependence. Author Melody Beattie has written several helpful and informative books on the topics of addiction, codependency and recovery.
Know the warning signs of sexual abuse (note: warning signs may differ by age). Understand what consent really looks like. Speak up if you see something that doesn’t seem right. Become an advocate for others. Notify local authorities, if needed.
Make Use of Available Resources
RAINN, America’s Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, is the largest organization in the United States fighting to combat sexual abuse, assault and violence. RAINN even offers a free, 24/7 sexual assault hotline. Hopefully, you’ll never have to call, but in the event that you do, the number is: 1-800-656-HOPE
Write your local senators and lawmakers requesting they do more to protect victims and stop the spread of sexual abuse, rape, and assault. RAINN even offers resources for creating and launching your own grassroots campaign against sexual assault, or your own fundraising campaign in support of a victim.
Sexual assault is traumatic and recovery is difficult, but it can be done without numbing the pain with alcohol or drugs. What happened in the past does not have to predict our future. We each have within us the power to heal and to make a positive difference in this world.