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Relationship between Sexual Violence and Substance Abuse

Mar 08,2022

As per various reports, sexual violence is considered one of the major global health problems affecting all sections of society. In the USA, 1.9% of women report rape or attempted rape before the age of 12 years. The threat is not just restricted to females and children but also males of different ages and races suffer from sexual violence. About 4% to 76% of males aged 18 years or younger experience sexual assault depending on the definition. 

Every individual reacts differently after having experienced some kind of sexual violence to cope with the traumatic memories. Consequently, developing different types of addictions is something irresistible among the survivors. Out of all the measures adopted by the victims, one of the frequent ones to rely upon is the excessive use of alcohol and drugs to combat the post-traumatic effects. The survivors of sexual assaults often switch to drugs in order to escape from the excruciating memories. 

Nevertheless, one must note that the relationship between sexual assaults and substance abuse is reversible, that is, in various cases, substance abuse leads to sexual violence while in other instances, sexual violence results in substance abuse among victims. Many sexual assaults take place after the perpetrator uses substances to facilitate the crime which leads to an inability to give consent. Most often, this is seen and misunderstood as the cause of the crime. On the other hand, rape victims are 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana, 5.3 times more likely than non-survivors to use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, 6.4 times more likely to use cocaine, and ten times more likely to use hard drugs other than cocaine. This signifies the vulnerability of the victims of sexual assaults to convert into victims of substance abuse.  

Why Do People Become Addicted?

No one can pick one definite answer to why people become addicted. Drug addiction is a chronic disease. Some people are more vulnerable to developing a drug addiction than others. It depends on several factors. The more exposed a person is to these factors, there are more chances of him/her becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Some of these factors include: 

Biological Factor

Biology plays a major role in the vulnerability of a person to substances. A person who is born with mental disorders is more prone to developing addictions. Gender and ethnicity are some other factors resulting in addiction among individuals. 

Environmental Factor 

Various factors affect our daily lives. They together influence our vulnerability to drug abuse. Peer pressure, sexual abuse, family relations, socioeconomic status, and quality of life lead an individual to develop addictions. 

Development Factor 

Both genetic and environmental factors influence the development factor. Thus, various individuals develop addictions while growing. People who have been exposed to drug use in the early stages of life are more susceptible to drug addiction. 

Apart from the above-listed major factors leading to drug and alcohol addiction among individuals, the experiences of a person are also one of the most primordial reasons that can result in addictions. For example, a child who has been sexually assaulted in his/her childhood. The experiences that do not heal and have created lasting impacts on the brain of any person often result in addictions. 

Common Symptoms of Substance Abuse 

Like every other mental illness, substance addiction also happens and develops over a while. Some of the symptoms of the disease are: 

  1. Consuming alcohol or drugs regularly 

  2. Craving for the substance

  3. Failed attempts to quit the substance

  4. Physical and/or psychological dependence

  5. High blood pressure, trembling, hallucinations 

The escapism from the pain of sexual violence leading to increased substance use not only impacts the individual but also has its costs to society. People suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, over time, develop other health-related problems including, cardiovascular problems, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, gastrointestinal diseases, respiratory problems, neurological effects, and other related diseases. On the other hand, excessive drug use also generates health conditions among people around the patient including prenatal drug exposure on infants and children, effects of passive smoking among the recipients, and increased transfer of communicable diseases. Despite people wanting to discontinue the use of substances, the withdrawal symptoms can make the person so ill that they continue with the consumption of drugs and alcohol. 

Not only does substance abuse create hazardous impacts on the physical health of a person, but it also negatively affects the existing society we live in. According to various researches, most of the major crimes like sexual violence, thefts, homicides, and others are executed under the influence of substances. Moreover, increased use of drugs also results in increased road accidents due to drink and drive cases. As per research by PCAR, children with drug addictions require special education for learning. On the other hand, about 31% of America's homeless population comprises drug addicts. 

A crime like sexual violence when exposes the victims/survivors to substances, directly or indirectly leads to an increased number of crimes in society. Hence, the relationship between sexual abuse and drug abuse is correlated. One crime leads to another crime which thus leads to more future crimes.