What is Military Sexual Trauma And How To Recover From It?

sexual trauma

What is sexual trauma?

Sexual trauma is described as childhood and adulthood sexual violence. It also refers to sexual violations that cause significant distress. This is also a term used based on clinical observations that people are not likely to label their experiences as sexual assault or rape due to the lack of physical assault or relationship with the perpetrator. Oftentimes, it also associates with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcohol disorders, eating disorders, and suicide. 


What causes sexual trauma?

Sexual trauma is caused by either childhood or adulthood sexual violence. Sexual violence is any sexual contact without consent and violates a person’s authority over their own body. When a person experiences sexual violence in the form of sexual assault, harassment, rape, or catcalling, their brain goes into a “fight or flight” state of increased physical and emotional stress. After that episode, the body tends to calm down. However, the trauma experienced forces the body to be stuck in that state of heightened stress for a more extended period. 

sexual trauma symptoms


Sexual trauma may manifest itself in many different ways, such as psychologically, biologically, and sociologically. 


What is Military Sexual Trauma?

Military sexual trauma is defined as sexual violence that a person experienced during military service. Just like sexual trauma, this includes any sexual activity without consent. 

Some examples of this trauma are as follows: 

  • Being forced to engage in sexual activities and being threatened for non-compliance
  • Someone forcing themselves upon a person who is unable to give consent due to any reason such as being asleep or under the influence of alcohol
  • Unsolicited, inappropriate, and repeated comments about the person’s body or talking about sexual activities
  • Sexual advances that are threatening

It is worth noting that anyone can experience military sexual trauma, regardless of a person’s gender. 


What are the symptoms of Military Sexual Trauma?

Military sexual trauma can be manifested through several possible symptoms. The following are some symptoms of the said trauma:

Physical health issues

Victims may suffer from physical health problems such as chronic pain, difficulty in sexual activities, and managing weight or eating issues. Also, they can experience difficulty with concentration.

Struggles with relationships

Victims may encounter problems with developing meaningful relationships. The trauma they experienced cause trust issues, difficulties engaging in sexual activities, and socialization issues. There is also an underlying issue of shame that these victims have to deal with, and most find themselves unable to be productive at work after the trauma.

Substance abuse

It was found that victims are more likely to experience substance abuse than those who were not. Studies have shown that the use of illicit substances such as marijuana and cocaine is up to ten times more likely among victims. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems

Survivors of both military and civilian sexual trauma exhibit an increased rate of PTSD for their lifetime. Veterans Affairs data indicate that other than PTSD, victims of sexual trauma may also have depression and other mood disorders. 

sexual trauma treatment (1)

It can also have effects that linger long after the abuse occurred. Some of these effects include:

  • Feeling vulnerable and not safe
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression or feeling numb
  • Nightmares
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Issues with the use of substances like alcohol or other drugs
  • Intense mood swings


What does sexually abused mean?

The Encyclopedia of Psychology defines sexual abuse as unwanted sexual activity. People who sexually abuse often use physical force, threats, manipulation, and their victims’ helplessness to commit their crimes. If a person has experienced any of the definitions mentioned above, that would mean they have been sexually abused.


Does trauma cause hypersexuality?

Hypersexuality or sex addiction is a disorder for people who engage in sexual activities or fantasize about sexual activities abnormally frequently. Hypersexual individuals find their careers and relationships disrupted because of their unusually sexual behaviors. 

Although the causes of hypersexuality are not yet completely understood, it has been found that some children exhibit hypersexual behavior as a result of sexual trauma or mental illness. Children who experienced this trauma also show an increase in both sexual and high-risk sexual behaviors. 


How does trauma affect intimacy?

Understanding how sexual trauma affects intimacy within relationships requires recognizing how trauma, in general, can affect a person’s general behavior, and within that, their intimacy within relationships. Sexual trauma, by itself, is not the only form of trauma that can create issues with intimacy. Any form of trauma can lead to this problem because trauma produces feelings of insecurity, fear, vulnerability, and sometimes even panic attacks. Adverse effects that trauma has on intimacy include the following:

  • Lack of interest in sexual activities
  • Being paranoid
  • Difficulty expressing feelings
  • Aversion to both sexual and non-sexual touch
  • Being irritable
  • Trust issues

Sexual trauma is a breach of trust and personal autonomy. It makes people feel vulnerable and lessens their ability to be intimate with other people. This difficulty with intimacy makes it difficult to maintain healthy relationships and prevents a person from moving forward from the experience.


How can you recover from sexual trauma?

Recovering from sexual trauma can be a lengthy process. Fortunately, there are many ways to cope with it and empower the victims to rise above their trauma symptoms and take control of themselves. Some of the ways to cope are the following:

Lifestyle changes

It can be as simple as starting with things like eating healthy, avoiding drugs or alcohol, or spending more time with loved ones.

Being optimistic

Practicing optimism is about looking for the positives in your life in order to create a sense of peace and happiness.

recovering from sexual trauma

Support groups

Interacting with other people who have experienced trauma is an excellent way to allow yourself to be comfortable talking about your trauma and process the feelings regarding it.


Take The First Step To Recovery

Another vital way to cope with the effects of sexual trauma is by seeking professional help. At Roots Through Recovery, we can provide professional help and therapy for people who wish to overcome their trauma and move on to face a brighter future ahead of them. You may visit our treatment center in Long Beach, CA, or contact us at 866-766-8776.

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