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From feeling powerless to take command of their own life/Pressing charges after sexual abuse
Pohjoismainen kansanterveystieteen korkeakoulu, NHV/Nordic School of Public Health2012-07-04 17:12 EEST
When those, who have experienced sexual abuse, report it they do so to feel better. Then they have a chance to rewrite their life’s story. But sexual assaults are not reported when survivors do not understand that they are abused and need help to process their trauma. Hildur Vea’s Doctor of Public Health-thesis at the Nordic School of Public Health NHV shows it.
The thesis explores why sexual assaults are reported or not and what survivors experience after reporting sexual abuse.
– When sexual abuse is reported survivors wish to increase their self-respect, says gestalt therapist Hildur Vea. She explains that those who report do so because they realize that it is the right thing to do. Even if it may impose new burdens, the study participants say that they are happy to have reported the abuse.
– Reporting has given them greater freedom and more joy in daily life, says Hildur Vea who, as a therapist, has been working with those problems for many years. From being a subject of abuse to the moment when a survivor is ready to report it, he/she goes through a process consisting of three steps called avoidance, understanding and recognition. It may take up to thirty years to understand that one has been sexual abused. During this period survivors do not tell anyone about what happened. One out of two who experienced sexual abuse forgets that it has happened.
– Sexual assaults are not reported when the victim enters the period of avoidance, he/she does not see any point in reporting it or thinks that it would lead to more negative than positive effects, says Vea.
The authorities need to provide support to survivors of sexual abuse, so that they can process their trauma. Shortening of avoidance period would lead to an increased number of reported assaults.