This is a post by Nikki Tighe. You can find her on Instagram @nikkitighe.
I was sexually assaulted when I was 18. It took me awhile to come to terms with how much it impacted me both mentally and emotionally. But I never expected how much it would affect me financially for the rest of my life.
Dealing with the effects of an assault and the stress of a criminal case during my University years meant leaving class because of a panic attack in a room of 300 students. It meant never being able to study with a clear head, and having to defer a midterm because I got a call that my rapist was released on bail hours before.
From dropped classes to outrageous medication costs, I have come to the realization that it has greatly hindered my career and my future earnings.
The Criminal Case
Hiding my assault and the criminal case from my friends and family meant tucking away many forms and pamphlets. And hoping no one would stumble across them.
I remember seeing the Victim Services application for monetary compensation. I learned that there is a fund that victims of violent crimes can apply for. You have to outline the costs you’ve incurred directly because of that crime. It follows the stipulations:
- You reported the crime to police within a reasonable period of time.
- You cooperated with the investigation into the crime.
- Your application is received within 2 years of the date of the crime – in special circumstances this may be extended. For example, if you were under the age of 18 when the crime occurred you have until age 28 to apply.
It was obvious to me that my finances were facing ugly consequences because of my assault. So I wanted to seek help where I could.
My GPA starting dropping quickly
My GPA in my first term of University as a Computing Science major was in the 3’s. After my assault it dropped into the 1’s.
How could I claim that? Would it be used against me in the trial if I asked for money? Would they try saying I was just a broke student trying to get my tuition paid for? These are some of the questions running through my mind.
Was I supposed to keep track of the costs of driving to talk to the detectives, to the Crown, to The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE)? The time that should’ve been spent focusing on school?
And aside from that, focusing on detailed financial information is tricky when you’ve just faced an intense trauma. The idea of having the legitimacy of my assault questioned already made me sick.
Dropping Out Of My Program
I developed crippling anxiety. From that point on I struggled to go to classes and was no longer keeping up in the competitive program I was in. I either dropped or failed 6 classes because of my mental health, totaling a loss of about $5,500 in tuition fees alone.
My job hunt is limited due to my assault
I only apply for jobs that are remote or are very flexible. Spending too much time around other people is inexplicably draining and I have a hard time leaving the house some days. It’s obvious that my professional development is hindered by my assault and its lingering effects.
Medication and Therapy
Mental health care comes at way too high a cost more often than not.
I was put on an antidepressant called Pristiq as a result of my assault. This medication wasn’t covered under my student plan and costs approximately $100 a month. I’ve paid for Ativan and Klonopin for my anxiety as well. These medications were partly covered, but I still owed money out of pocket.
I paid $60 for a Rapid HIV test at a DX Medical Centre. My visits to SACE were a by-donation system, but therapy appointments since run me about $180 per session.
When I was a student, I had about $300 a month after bills and $100 of that went towards my medication. Now, luckily, I have medical coverage so my medication costs less. Yet, I am still spending about $2,000 per year on these mental health costs.
It’s honestly sad having to calculate these into my monthly budget, instead of towards an emergency fund, or a fun trip. I can’t ever see myself ever not needing medication and therapy. And it will likely cost me up to $100,000 in my lifetime.
Studies show that the psychological effects experienced by sexual assault survivors include:
- Feelings of powerlessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lowered self-esteem
- The development of phobias
The losses due to sexual violence are difficult to measure. However, they undoubtedly result in a reduced quality of life and lowered productivity.
The gender pay gap is widely talked about, but I feel like I rarely see sexual assault brought up as a driving force of inequality. I felt like it destroyed my drive. I have horrible memory problems since the assault, and getting any information about the criminal case seems to always set me back. It makes me wonder how many other women have had their education or career hindered by sexual assault or violence.
In a world where we are fighting for equality for women when women are disproportionately affected by these crimes, will the existence of sexual violence always leave us at an economic disadvantage?
I’d hope not. And sharing our stories might be a good start in raising awareness for the multitude of ways we are affected by these traumas.