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Studies show that 1 in 5 women have been targets of rape or sexual abuse. Abusers don’t discriminate – it can happen to anyone, of any age, race, class, or sexual identity. 

Everyone reacts to traumatic events in their own complex way. Research has shown that some common effects sexual abuse survivors experience may experience are thoughts and feelings of anger, shame, guilt, numbness, or flashbacks, nightmares, and physical or mental health problems.

Sexual abuse has been attributed to:

  • 15% of all suicides in the UK
  • 11% of all common mental health disorders in the UK
  • 7% of alcohol dependence disorders
  • 10% of drug dependence disorders
  • 15% of eating disorders
  • 17% of post-traumatic stress disorders (Source: Safeline)

Getting confidential support can be key to helping survivors who have experienced sexual abuse to recover, no matter how long the abuse originally took place.

One female sexual abuse survivor said: “I could rationalise my experience before, but I could not connect with it for fear I would be consumed by the sadness of it all. Through seeking support, I am now in touch with my emotions and feelings which is new for me. Now I feel that particular misconceptions have been rewritten. I’m now happy to feel it, I’m embracing all of it and I’m finding that it’s getting less overpowering the more I encounter with it through the support that I am receiving.” (provided by NAPAC)

Getting confidential and independent support

Taking the first step to getting support can be hard and the experience will be different for everyone, but there is lots of different support is available to help you.

You can:

  • tell someone what happened
  • get help to access services in your local area
  • get emotional support including from trained counsellors and therapists
  • get medical support from specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers
  • get help to understand how the criminal justice system works

Supporting someone you know that has experienced sexual abuse

Whether it happened a long time ago or more recently, it can be really hard to know what to say to a friend or family member who has confided in you about the sexual violence and abuse they suffered.

For many survivors, support is a crucial part of the healing process, and receiving compassionate responses from friends and family can make a real difference. However, it can feel very overwhelming and it is important to look after yourself too.

As a friend or family member of a victim or survivor of sexual violence, you can help by listening, letting them speak, and telling them that you believe them. You can then help them to get support if this is something they wish to do.

Whenever it happened to you, it’s never too late to get support. If you’ve ever experienced sexual violence or sexual abuse, or want to find out more about how to support a friend or family member who has been sexually abused, you can get confidential support from specialists who will listen to you, believe you and understand how hard it is to talk about.

Visit #ItStillMatters at gov.uk/SexualAbuseSupport to see the support on offer.

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