In the United States alone, a person is sexually assaulted every minute of the day, resulting in around half a million victims of sexual assault in the States, according to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN). That number only reflects the individuals who seek treatment for their trauma; the real number is suspected to be much higher.

For individuals who have been sexually assaulted, trauma-informed care is imperative for helping them achieve a successful recovery in the short and long term.

Long-term effects of sexual assault

Many of us claim to be “fine” after experiencing a trauma; maybe we genuinely believe it to be true, or we’re too scared to start the healing process. Either way, this claim often does more harm than good.

It prevents us from fully experiencing the love and support of family or friends. It often dissuades us from seeking professional help for the mental or physical repercussions that are taking a toll on our health post-trauma. It’s isolating — because we’re not, actually, “fine.”

Sexual assault is a grave act, a violation of intimacy that often creates a ripple effect of damage and suffering in our lives, especially when left unhealed. Without the proper support and tools to recover, the aftermath of sexual assault can unravel nearly every area of our health and life.

The long-term effects of sexual assault include:

  • Developing a mental health disorder (depression, anxiety, panic and bipolar)
  • Feelings of low self-worth, hopelessness, guilt, shame, anger
  • Neurobiological and mental changes (new thinking patterns, typically unhealthy)
  • Physical and emotional issues (headaches, fatigue and emotional immaturity)

Sexual assault affects people differently, so it’s important not to dismiss someone just because their behavior doesn’t match the list of symptoms you read about in an article. 

Some people hide their pain well, others wear it on their sleeve; some take the initiative to start healing on their own, while others find themselves drowning without professional support to guide them through it.

In both cases, trauma-informed care can be a powerful practice.

What is trauma-informed care?

Trauma-informed care is a full-spectrum approach to health care that takes into consideration all areas of a person’s life (past, present and future) before creating their treatment plan. 

It helps physicians and other medical providers understand their patients on a deeper level that enables them to identify the most effective treatments for you personally. It also allows the provider to support you in the ways you need during this troubling time.

This whole-person assessment commonly takes into consideration the state of a patient’s mental health, their overall physical health, the influence of a person’s various relationships and day-to-day environments, how “ready” they are to commit to recovery and more.

Prioritizing trauma-informed practices is not only beneficial to the client but cost-effective and often improves the morale of patients and staff alike.

Principles of trauma-informed care

Trauma-informed care is a comprehensive approach to healthcare that’s composed of a set of core principles (or guidelines) that reflect how to successfully implement this practice. 

Though some organizations or healthcare providers choose to implement an additional principle or two. The universal principles of trauma-informed care are: 

  • Safety
  • Trust
  • Choice
  • Collaboration
  • Empowerment
  • Healing relationships
  • Understanding culture

These principles allow the client to feel safe, secure and trusted within their recovery while collaborating with their needs and goals. It’s important to emphasize their ability to choose and remind them of the power and ability they have to make decisions while on the path of healing.

Take the first step today

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault on any level, know that you can reach out to us and you will be supported. Whether the assault seems “small” or big, happened years ago or yesterday, we’re here to help; you are not alone.

Send us a message or call us today to speak with one of our compassionate advisors and learn more about what the next best step for you is, and how we can support you.