The Struggling Warrior – Challenges faced by an assault survivor
Tex – The life behind the smile.
Survivors of abuse and sexual assault face many obstacles, not just for the time being but also for their whole life.
The assault leaves lasting emotional effects on the survivor, which may manifest as PTSD, anxiety, substance abuse issues, depression, self-injury, sleep disorders, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and more. At times this also results in physical problems that may include pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, scars, and wounds.
Another challenge that survivors have to deal with is the obstacles presented by other people. When they share their traumatic life story with someone by confiding in them, the listener either does not believe them or starts victim-blaming.
Some people stoop so low that they start making jokes that lighten the impact of what happened to the victim or trigger an intense emotional response in them. Such things make it even more challenging for the survivors to locate good legal, medical, and counseling resources.
Abusers do not care
These are not the only challenges that survivors face. Some get bullied about their age and gender and get abused and bullied about their looks. It is essential to understand that abuse, rape, assault, or molestation can happen to people of any age, sex, race, class, or level of education. Several individuals who were abused are fortunate enough to grow up becoming highly functional adults and model parents. However, others aren’t so lucky. They face a constant uphill battle. Some of the challenges faced by survivors of abuse are:
A sense of worthlessness
It is overwhelming and frustrating for the close people of the survivor to see their loved one is treated like a doormat. But what’s worse is that several individuals in abusive situations think that if they’re being poorly treated, it is because they must deserve it.
They say that the way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice. Hence a constant stream of put-downs (for instance, “You’ll never be worthy enough,” or “You’re stupid”) or a scornful tone sets the child up to believe that they do not deserve respect. When these kids grow up, this abuse gives them a sense that they have no value and therefore do not deserve any common courtesy or safety.
It is ubiquitous among the abuse survivors to think that the abuse was their fault. The brainwashing that happens in abuse situations where the abusers constantly tell kids or their partners that they are the reason for all the wrong happening with them, or they are the cause of bad, for instance, the sentences like “OK, now you’ve done it,” “You know you want it,” or “You asked for it.”
This makes the victim believe that they provoked such an extreme response, they are responsible, they must have deserved it, and they might change the outcome if only they “behave better” the next time.
On the contrary, survivors also often feel guilty for not stopping the abuse at the right time. Even if they were kids when it happened, they think they could have stopped it and kept blaming themselves, which also severely impacts their mental health. To deal with this, therapists sometimes ask survivors to picture themselves of the age when they faced the abuse. Witnessing just how small and innocent they were, helps them challenge the notion of calling themselves responsible.
For many outsiders, it is tough to wrap their heads around the fact that a victim is helpless. They ask survivors questions like “Why didn’t they leave when they could?” One primary reason behind this is that abuse is perceived as normal for several individuals because they have gone from one abusive situation to another.
To make it easier to comprehend, think of it as if you had no awareness about violence and disrespect, and no one told you it was not normal, then you may think that’s just how life is. This will also set a perception in the victim's mind that the future would be just as bad as the past and present.
Children raised in abusive environments are taught their needs are a burden, and their rights are nonexistent. Therefore, crying or wanting comfort might result in violence, boundaries. The privacy of such children might have been ignored, and ownership of items may not have been respected. Survivors often have been disappointed or punished so much that they may think they’re helpless and cannot stop others’ misdeeds.
There is always hope!
The above mentioned are just a few challenges that survivors face daily. If you or someone close in your circle is a survivor of abuse or sexual assault, you must help them understand that there are ways to overcome these challenges. Several NGOs are available to aid survivors or victims in finding support, advocacy, and additional resources.
If you are interested to learn about the challenges a child has to face if they are abused or raped, the book “Tex – The life behind the smile” can give you a clear perspective on child abuse. It is a book about a boy who lost his voice but found a new one. It will help people who have gone through such change in their lives or have a history of being abused or neglected as children understand that change is possible and the future can be bright.
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