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Study Reveals the Many Ways Sexual Assault Harms Women

A wide range of social and psychological effects often go undiagnosed in victims, experts say

FRIDAY, Oct. 12, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- The mental and social effects of sexual assault are far greater than previously suspected, a new study reveals.

Although depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are widely recognized consequences of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, this study finds that victims suffer from a wide range of serious effects that often go unnoticed or undiagnosed.

These harmful effects occur in 13 areas of psychological health and social functioning, including self-esteem, social reputation, sexual desire and self-perceived value as a mate, according to the study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.

The findings from a survey of 140 women who were victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault provide important insight into mental health and social issues -- and possibly treatments -- for such victims, the researchers pointed out.

On a more positive note, the study authors said hope could be found in some of the women's self-described feelings of optimism.

"Women often show exceptional resilience," study author Carin Perilloux said in a university news release. "With support and assistance, many rape victims may be able to regain normalcy in some of the domains of their lives affected by the victimization."

The study is scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office on Women's Health has more about sexual assault.

SOURCE: University of Texas at Austin, news release, Oct. 8, 2012
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