Sexual violence, abuse and rape: getting help and support

Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age or sexuality. It can occur when we are children, teenagers, or adults – in a relationship, or with a stranger. The experience is often overwhelming and difficult for our mind and our emotions to process and deal with at the time, and often for many years afterwards.

Sexual violence is a widely underreported phenomenon globally, therefore available statistics are unlikely to inform about the true scale of the problem. A charity in Hong Kong (ACSVAW) report that 1 in 7 women have experienced sexual violence.

Sexual violence and abuse is any behaviour of a sexual nature which is unwanted and takes place without consent or understanding. It includes acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic.

Coercive sexual abuse is when you are pressured to agree to a sexual act. You may have said yes, because no did not feel like an option. It's important to know that this is not what consent looks like. You may have felt you had to because the perpetrator was dangerous, in a position of power above you (like a boss), or manipulating you to feel you 'have to' in some way - through guilt, shame or obligation.

Trauma may be physical, emotional or psychological, and often it is a combination of all three.

Events that were too difficult to think about or to process when the event happened, can cause a range of difficulties later on. By getting the support we need, we can work through the buried past and live our life more fully in the present.

Survivors often report feelings of fear, shame and guilt. Sadly, many blame themselves for the abuse and violence, or feel that they ought to have done more to stop it and are therefore somehow responsible.

Cultural values often create more stigma for people who report. These factors can also prevent survivors from seeking support.

Men who experience sexual violence can face severe stigma as many people believe men cannot be victims of rape. Sexual crimes in the LGBTQ+ community are often not reported - survivors may fear revealing their gender identity or sexual orientation or may not trust the legal system to protect them.

Survivors could also fear inciting further violence. Others may fear “betraying” their family or community by disclosing personal information.

Common symptoms include:

  • Depression: feelings of hopelessness or despair, reduced self-worth. These feelings may be mild and fleeting, or they can be intense and long-lasting.
  • Anxiety: survivors may fear the attack could happen again. Anxiety can create a loop of thinking that can become quite distorted, interrupting sleep patterns and normal life. Some may experience panic attacks. Others may develop agoraphobia and become afraid to leave their homes.
  • Post-traumatic stress: someone who survives sexual violence may experience intense memories of the abuse. In some cases, flashbacks may be so disruptive they cause a survivor to lose track of surroundings.
  • Attachment issues: survivors may find it challenging to form healthy attachments with others, especially in intimate relationships
  • Difficult relationship with food: studies have shown that there are a high number of people (at least 30%) diagnosed with an eating disorder have suffered from sexual abuse. For many there is a belief that the eating disorder is a means of survival for them, and so this can be delicate to treat.
  • Addiction: research suggests abuse survivors are 26 times more likely to use drugs. Drugs, alcohol and food can help numb the pain of abuse. Yet substance abuse often leads to the development of other problems.

Healing is always possible, and with the right support you can learn to manage and recover from the psychological, emotional and physical effects of sexual violence.

Our psychologists and psychotherapists are familiar with dealing with the effects of sexual violence and abuse and can offer a safe, private and confidential place to support your recovery at a pace that is set by you.

We use an integrated approach and offer a wide range of treatments and therapies that can help in your healing process. Targeted nutrition, herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies can help support you as you work towards physical and mental recovery. We can also signpost you to other agencies for specialist help if required.

Our bodies and energetic field may hold residual trauma after sexual violence. Somatic or energetic therapy, like craniosacral therapy, acupuncture or alternative therapy can help release emotions that have been trapped in the body or your energy for deeper healing.

Rainlily, a support group for women can offer community if that's what you're looking for.

Books that can provide further support include:

  • Healing the Shame that Binds You, John Bradshaw
  • The Courage to Heal, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis
  • The Warrior Within, Christiane Sanderson
  • The Spirit Within, Christiane Sanderson

What’s next?

You may know that you are ready to start talking about the issues with a psychotherapist or psychologist. Or you may not be ready to discuss what has happened, but want to reach out for some help. We can support and guide you as you begin to address the events or experiences that have affected you so deeply, and find a way forward.

For confidential advice and support, contact These emails are answered by a trained counsellor or psychologist, who can advise you how best to proceed in your circumstances, within the protective framework of confidentiality.

If you're ready to start talking, our team of psychotherapists and counsellors are here to listen and support you. Connect with us below, and we'll be in touch shortly.

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