Rape is prevalent across the world, finding its way into countries such as the United States, France, and Germany. It also prevails in third world countries, including Ethiopia, South Africa, and Iraq. However, only a small portion of rapes are actually reported. 1 in 7 women in the United States have been subjected to sexual harassment at least once throughout their life. As great as that number may be, it is concluded that only 16 percent to 20 percent of rape survivors report their experiences to officers in the government (Wolitzky-Taylor et al.
, n.d., p. 582).
Rape, however, that is reported shows the damage and deterioration that victims endure to their physical health. Sexually transmitted diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, lifestyle changes and unhealthy addictions are common among women who have experienced sexual harassment. All of which lead to destructive long term impacts on the well-being of survivors.
Directly after rape, women encounter a swell of emotions and therefore their first thought is not directed at the physical conditions of their bodies.
However, on average, out of the women that are brought into the emergency room, two thirds experience a physical trauma as well as the sexual assault. Common injuries include lacerations or wounds directed at the head or neck and genital, vaginal, rectal, or cervical trauma (‘Physical and Psychological,’ 2013, p. 7).
Sexually transmitted diseases are another common trait among rape and sexual harassment survivors. A study conducted at the Department of Genitourinary Medicine, in a two year period after June of 1988, took into account 52 female victims of sexual assault (ages ranging from 13 to 48). The results highlighted the correlation between rape and STDs. Out of the 52 victims, 14 of the women contracted sexually transmitted diseases including chlamydia, gonococcus, and trichomoniasis (Estreich, Forster, & Robinson, 1990, p. 271).
Another similar study took in a sample size of 124 women at the Ambrose King Centre – during January of 1986 through September of 1989 – who reported being raped. From the group, 36 of the women (29 percent) tested positive for a combined total of 57 separate sexually transmitted diseases. Half the women who contracted STDs were infected with more than one disease and among those women, three even contracted triple infections (Estreich, Forster, & Robinson, 1990, p. 433). STDs have the potential to harm women’s health in long term ways. For instance, untreated STDs have damaging effects, such as lasting destruction on vital organs, potentially dangerous pregnancies, and increased rate of infertility (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Both experiments underline the idea that raped women are at risk for major health threats due to sexually transmitted diseases.
In addition to sexually transmitted diseases, rape also impacts lifestyle behaviors, leading to harmful addictions. For instance eating disorders can be developed after the occurrence of a traumatic event, such as rape or sexual harassment. Sexual abuse in childhood draws a direct correlation to eating disorders in adulthood, but a study from the University of Georgia, relates sexual harassment in adulthood to eating disorders. The participants included 489 women, all of which were enrolled at Southeastern University, retaining an average age of 18. The women were asked a series of questions, anonymously in a group setting about their past experience with sexual abuse and whether they are currently suffering from eating disorders. 16 percent of the women reported a form of binge eating episodes (Fischer, Stojek, & Hartzell, 2010, p. 191). The data indicates that sexaul assault in adulthood significantly impacts the commonality of being diagnosed with an eating disorder.
The body undergoes serious health infractions as a result of eating disorders. For example anorexia nervosa, which is a method of self starvation, causes the weakening of muscles, the lack of bone density – leading to brittle bones – dehydration which can result in kidney failure in extreme cases and hair loss. On the opposite end of the spectrum bulimia nervosa, a purge eating disorder, triggers impairing effects on those who endure it. For instance high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and heart diseases are all health consequences associated with purge episodes (National Eating Disorders Association, n.d.).
Other harmful behaviors linked with rape include cigarette smoking. A study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina measured the use of cigarettes among rape victims. 442 female victims of sexual assault agreed to participate in study. Out of the current smokers, 57.3 percent reported an increase of smoking after rape. Out of the nonsmokers, 15.5 percent developed smoking as a new habit. The study concluded that rape was an influencing factor of smoking (Amstadter, Resnick, Nugent, Acierno, Rheingold, Minhinnett, & Kilpatrick, D. G, 2009).
Smoking can have drastic effects on the body and long term impacts on one’s health. For instance smoking can cause reduced blood flow to legs and arms, high blood pressure, clogging of arteries, heart disease, and strokes. In addition smoking can lead to cancer in almost every part of the body, such as bladder, blood, cervix, liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, and colon. Furthermore pregnant women and their children are put further at risk when smoking. Women can have early childbirth or stillbirth, and their child runs the risk of having a low birth weight, clefts, and deformities (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2017).
Some women even develop unhealthy drinking habits as a result of rape. Rape victims are 2.8 times more likely to inherit alcohol overuse compared to non victims, putting them in immediate danger of serious health risks (‘Physical and Psychological,’ 2013, p. 7). For instance, alcohol’s presence in the body impedes the brain’s ability to communicate with other parts of the body, causing the brain to change its appearance and the way in which it functions. Over time alcohol devastates vital organs in the body including the heart, the liver, and the pancreas. Stroke, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, fatty liver, and fibrosis are all consequential side effects, which can eventually lead to other drastic changes in physical health. In addition alcohol abuse triggers the weakening of the immune system, causing the body to be susceptible to infections later in life (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2018).
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is considered a recurring pain in the abdominal area arising over a three month period. A study orchestrated through the resident of an Australian suburb connects IBS to sexual assault victims. The experiment was able to draw a link between IBS and adulthood rape by deducing that 14.9 percent of the overall 730 trial subjects were faced with IBS post rape (Talley, Boyce, & Jones, 1998, p. 49).
Irritable bowel syndrome can last anywhere from one year to a lifetime. IBS attacks the body’s digestive system and causes pain within the colon. It is also associated with diarrhea and constipation depending upon the severity of the IBS. Often times for women, IBS becomes more intense during the menstrual cycle (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, n.d.).
Overall, women who are subjected to rape run the risk of facing both immediate, and long term impairments to their physical health. Directly after rape, women encounter bruises, lacerations, and wounds. Sexually transmitted diseases along with irritable bowel syndrome can be contracted as a result of sexual harassment. Long term behavioral changes also have the possibility to occur. Eating disorders, smoking, and substance abuse harm the body directly but lead to further dangerous effects later in life. Rape is about more than just unconsented sex; it has the power to alter one’s physical life forever.
Cite this The Damage and Deterioration That Victims Endure to Their Physical Health
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