SMART answers YOUR questions!

Augsburg’s Sexual Misconduct Awareness Raising Team (SMART) wants to answer your questions about consent! They will be answering the questions bi-monthly in the ECHO in addition to addressing current events related to sexual misconduct.

Question: What impact does sexual violence have on mental health?

   SMART has answered a lot of questions regarding what defines consent and attempting to avoid or prevent it, but we have yet to address the after effects of sexual violence. Knowing what happens after sexual violence is important in both helping survivors and clarifying to those unaware that sexual violence often has a lasting effect on the survivors.

    According to Mental Health America, “Many survivors report flashbacks of their assault and feelings of shame, isolation, shock, confusion and guilt. People who were victims of rape or sexual assault are at an increased risk for developing depression, PTSD, substance use disorders, eating disorders and anxiety.” Some survivors will, as a result, need therapy and medications in order to cope, which can become very costly. To put it to scale, it is estimated that 3.8 million American women have rape-related PTSD, not accounting for any other mental health issues.  Men who have experienced sexual violence are also impacted mentally. According to the CDC, “One in six U.S. men have experienced sexual violence, and 17 percent of those men develop symptoms of [PTSD].”

        For teenage girls, the statistics are jarring. Researchers from the University College of London did study on the mental health of teenage girls ages 13–17 who experienced sexual assault. They discovered that following the assault, “80 percent of them had at least one mental health disorder. More than half (55 percent) had at least two disorders.”

Tragically, survivors sometimes resort to substance abuse as a coping mechanism for this pain. Female rape victims specifically are “13.4 times more likely to have two or more major alcohol problems” and “26 times more likely to have two or more major serious drug abuse problems,” according to a study done by the Medical University of South Carolina.

    While these statistics are harrowing, there is hope.  By continuing our support of survivors and spreading awareness, we can someday make these obsolete. For now, there are resources on campus and in Minnesota to help:

Center for Wellness and Counseling at Augsburg provides counseling and more resources and does a partnership with ProtoCall 24/7 help line (612)-330-1707.

Aurora Center, designed for survivors, has a 24/7 help line (612) 626-9111.

Minnesota WarmLine, 651-288-0400 or text “Support” to 85511, is open Monday–Saturday from 5–10 p.m.

Questions for SMART’s monthly column can be submitted to smarteam@augsburg.edu. They will be printed anonymously and kept confidential.

SMART meets every other Wednesday in OGC 100 from 6pm-7pm. Keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram pages for upcoming events. You can also email smarteam@augsburg.edu to get on their email list and to express interest in writing these articles.

This article was originally published in the Jan. 25, 2019 issue.