Currently, the representatives of different theoretical orientations converge in the recognition of the pathogenic effect of physical and psychological abuse, which includes sexual harassment, corporal punishment, inadequate parental settings, and symbiosis. State’s response to the violence, both outside the home and within the family, is a crucial issue. In the country that permits violence, which is perceived as routine, the society and institution of family fall into decay. The tolerance of any kind of violence is the rejection of the creation of a modern civilized society. Currently, there are several trends that increase the need to study the consequences of sexual violence. On the one hand, crime situation is worsening. On the other hand, with the development of society, the needs of each person in respect of privacy, personal freedom and security, the lack of which make people more sensitive to the crimes against the person, increase. Another important factor is the growing role of the feminist movement, which highlights the problem of violence against women. The paper will discuss the psychological mechanisms of sexual assault, its psychology, risks of becoming a victim of the assault, and effects of sexual abuse.
Psychological Mechanisms of Sexual Assault
Rape (sexual intercourse with violence or the threat of its use) is just one of the types of sexual violence. Sexual violence is considered to encompass many other activities that do not necessarily use brute force. They include offensive sexual comments and hints, views and calls, demonstration of genitals (exhibitionism); unwanted touching different parts of one’s body by another person; fraud, blackmail, intimidation to coerce sexual intimacy or nudity; forced participation in adult sexual games, showing pornography.
The tendency to solve interpersonal problems through the use of physical force is not the exclusive prerogative of men. Many surveys and observations show that about the same number of representatives of both sexes believe that beating is an acceptable means of persuasion with respect to their loved ones (James & Gilliland, 2013).
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There are several theories that attempt to explain sexual abuse. The most common among them is feminist approach. It considers rape as a result of deep-rooted tradition, in which men dominate almost in all important areas of life. Thus, this act is a cruel form of manifestation of power and control of men over women, where sex plays the role of weapons. Another approach is the theory of social learning. It suggests that deviant sexual behavior is acquired through simulation models in the family, culture, subculture and the media. Evolutionary theory indicates the desirability of offensive copulatory behavior of men in the course of evolution.
There are some obstacles in studying the psychological grounds and effects of sexual assault. Particularly, the complexity of studying the problem of sexual violence is that victims often do not wish to report the incident to avoid publicity. The second challenge on the way is malpractice in law enforcement agencies. In addition, immediately after the experience of violence, the victims have psychological problems (fear of publicity and of the perpetrator, worsening relations with loved oness). Their health problems occupy the last place in their life at this stage. This leads to the postponement of screening for the disease, sexually transmitted infections and other negative health outcomes.
Sexual violence is an extreme life event that causes posttraumatic stress reaction among the vast majority of victims. The victims of cruel, sudden violence by a stranger are characterized with the change in their own behavior and reduction of situational aspects of self-esteem. The victim of institutionalized abuse (for example, spousal) often continues to be in an unfavorable situation even after an injury that influences the stress response, making it less severe but more prolonged. Such victims are characterized with more pronounced self-incrimination, and the searching for the causes of the incident not in the external world but within themselves.
People, who have suffered from a traumatic event, require acknowledgment of their importance from the outside. However, the need for outside help is demonstrated a little differently by victims of brutal violence and victims of domestic abuse. The first require more specific, situational assistance that is related to learning to cope with the traumatic memory. The latter ones are looking for opportunities for more general dispositional personality changes.
There can be different psychological consequences of sexual violence. Thus, sexual assault can cause post-traumatic stress disorders. They include the presence of a stressor, intrusive memories and thoughts related to the situation of violence, arousal (anxiety, increased physical activity), flash-backs (flashing memories of the experienced violence). Sexual violence also leads to cognitive impairments such as perception of oneself as helpless, bad, ugly, caused low self-esteem, revaluation of certain properties, trespassing (difficulties in separating oneself from others and defining borders, resulting in the exploitation of self and others). There are emotional problems that can be caused by experiencing sexual violence. These issues include anxiety, fear, panic, low mood, depression, anger, emotional numbness, and sexual problems.