Fallout: Mental Health and the #MeToo Movement

Surviving sexual assault or abuse goes long past the physical effects of the experience. The emotional well-being and mental health impacts can be felt for weeks, months, years or perhaps become something for survivors to manage the rest of their lives. 

It isn't unusual for someone who survives this type of trauma to feel a loss of power or control over their body, which can have a profound emotional reaction that many find hard to cope with every day. Flashbacks, memories and seemingly small reminders can cause a resurgence of these feelings. Even the mostly helpful #metoo press coverage can bring back traumatic experiences for those who have endured them. 

Common emotional effects of sexual violence or abuse include:

  • Self-blame, feeling as though the survivor could have done something differently

  • A sense of vulnerability or feeling unsafe, even in a secure environment

  • Feelings of shame or embarrassment about the assault experience

  • Persisting anger or frustration about what happened

None of these are signs of weakness; they are signs of survival. Coming to terms with what happened takes time and can be very difficult. 

People who survive severe trauma sometimes experience major anxiety, struggles of addiction or significant personality changes. These signs may not appear right away. It may be some months or more before these effects begin to manifest, and even longer before the reasons why are recognized. 

The consequences on survivors’ mental health and the support someone might need can differ from person to person. There is no one way to help an individual who has lived through sexual abuse. Although the specific needs of each person may be different, one thing is certain: helping someone on the road to healing is about being open, understanding, and listening with compassion.