The lasting impact of sexual assault

Recent research carried out by University College London and King’s College Hospital NHS Trust has shown that 80% of teenage girls are likely to develop psychological conditions in the weeks following a sexual assault.

The findings were reported in The Lancet.

The study took place between April 2013 and April 2015 in Greater London. It focused on 137 girls between the age of 13 and 17 who had been sexually assaulted. They girls were interviewed by researchers in the first 6 weeks after the assault and again 4-5 months later.

The first interviews that took place showed that 88% of the girls were at risk for developing a depressive disorder, 71% were at risk of developing an anxiety disorder and 91% of 128 were at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

The second interviews were held a few months later with each girl. The second interviews showed that of those who were at risk of developing psychological disorders in the first interviews 80% ie. 4 of 5 had gone on to develop a disorder. More than half of these girls had developed not one, but multiple disorders.

The study also established a link between the development of disorders and the girl’s previous social or psychological vulnerability, meaning that those from more difficult or deprived backgrounds were at a higher risk of assault and in turn, had a higher risk of developing psychological problems.

At the second interview stage 4% were pregnant as a result of the assault and 12% had sexually transmitted diseases.

Vicky Price trauma specialist from Price Slater Gawne commented

“We know from our own experience that many of our female clients who suffer from mental health problems in adult life have experienced abuse in some form in the past. They take the trauma and the medical consequences of the assault through life with them unless there is comprehensive, intervening support for them in the first few months.

Symptoms which indicate a risk of a disorder developing need to be acted upon quickly to curb their effects. In situations where the disorder has already developed, targeted treatment must be available to achieve the best outcomes for these ladies and the support needs to be life long. The damage done by this type of assault should not be under estimated and this study shows quite clearly how mental health problems affect their relationships, family life, employment opportunities and day to day well being. Every day we hear from girls and women who are trying to access mental health support following an assault – whether recent or historic. They need to be heard and provided with the help they require.”

If you have been the victim of sexual assault and would like to speak to a solicitor who is specialised in personal injury and assault, please contact us, in complete confidence on 0161 615 5554.  All initial consultations are free of charge.