Sexual Assault and Addiction
The #MeToo movement has recently taken social media by storm.
Thousands of women posted #MeToo and brought their experiences of sexual assault into the light, making the statistics about sexual assault more personal. The aim is to bring awareness that the vast majority of women—of all races, ages, looks, socio-economic backgrounds—have been sexually assaulted. The message is powerful: sexual assault is a huge problem in this country.
The problem of sexual assault begs a few follow up questions in relation to substance abuse: First, what were the circumstances of sexual assault, and were any substances involved? Second, what coping mechanism do survivors use in the wake of sexual abuse?
Does alcohol or drug use lead to sexual assault?
Sexual assault is often associated with alcohol and drug use. For example, roofies and assaults on intoxicated people are common. It is true that abusing substances can make it more difficult to recognize a dangerous situation.
However, this does not mean in any way that alcohol or drug use is a cause of sexual abuse.
If you were assaulted while under the influence, it is not your fault. If a person assaulted you while they were under the influence, they are still responsible for their actions.
Perhaps you are unsure what sexual assault consists of. If you have been sexually assaulted or think you may have been, and are unsure what steps to take, visit the Office of Women’s Health website.
Is there a correlation between sexual assault and substance dependency?
Ninety percent of women who are dependent on alcohol experienced severe violence from a parent and /or were sexually abused as a child. According to the American Journal of Addictions, seventy-five percent of women in rehabilitation centers have been sexually abused. Women who were sexually abused as children are three times more likely to struggle with addiction as adults. There is a particularly strong correlation between childhood sexual abuse and addiction.
Sexual abuse is not just a female problem. One in ten men have been sexually abused and are also more likely to turn to substances.
Psychologically, turning to substances makes sense. People who have been hurt, either as a child or an adult, must find a way to numb the hurt, forget, or feel differently. Drugs and alcohol do this, but in the process cause more problems without actually fixing the original problem.
There’s a cycle of substance use and sexual abuse.
Imagine a woman who uses alcohol to escape the pain of childhood sexual abuse. She binge drinks one night at a party, blacks out, and is raped by a friend. Although she is not responsible for abuse, she feels shame, vulnerability, and anger from the incident. To cope with these traumatic feelings, she turns to alcohol once more. And a vicious cycle is born.
Generational cycles appear as well. Imagine a mother that struggles with addiction. Her need for a fix might drive her to leave her child in an unsafe situation where he/she is sexually abused. Or, perhaps she lets someone abuse her child in exchange for drugs to feed her addiction. The abused child might then, in return, turn to substances to cope with the trauma because this is the only way they know how to cope.
If any of the above situations describes you, or if you’ve experienced sexual assault of any kind, know that there is hope. Addiction, trauma, depression, PTSD, and sexual assault can feel like a ball of string that is impossible unwrap and figure out, but with time and therapy, you can work through the root issues.
Victory Addiction Recovery Center understands that the reasons and solutions for addiction are complex, which is why we provide counseling to address the deep issues of addiction recovery. Licensed staff give support to individuals and families who want to sort out the effects of trauma and how it can lead to addiction. If you, or someone you know, has been sexually assaulted and is using substances, contact Victory Addiction Recovery Center and ask about how to get help.
Share This Post: