Noll presents at American Psychological Association Annual Convention

Jennie Noll, director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, recently presented a session at the 2016 American Psychological Association Annual Convention in Denver.

The presentation, “The Impact of Child Sexual Abuse on Women's Health and Well-Being--How is Sexual Abuse Different From Other Forms of Child Maltreatment or is it?”, aimed to bring attention to what makes sexual assault different from other traumas. On the stress continuum, a model shared by Noll during her presentation, sexual assault is ranked as the severest form of trauma, worse than car accidents, neglect, and physical abuse.

Noll began her presentation by defining sexual abuse, statutory rape and sex trafficking, and detailing the betrayal, stigma and powerlessness often experienced by victims. She discussed common psychosocial, physiological and physical side effects that result from this type of stress, including intimacy and attachment or sexual promiscuity, obesity, and teen pregnancy.

Noll outlined the three R’s of revictimization: read, react and respond, to explain the process sufferers of sexual abuse often endure from feeling threatened, deciding to fight or flight and ultimately attempting to remove themselves from the situation. Her primary goal was to persuade her audience that sexual assault is an indeed a unique scenario that must be approached accordingly.

Towards the end of her presentation, Noll asked the simple two-word question raised regularly by activists and opinion leaders: “Who cares?” She answered, “When we don’t work together, we lose our collective narrative. When we lump sexual abuse together with all stressors, we lose our ability to discover novel, sex-specific interventions.” Even with the prevalence of sexual assault in both young females and males across the United States and all over the world, most prevention strategies and programs still do not target sexual abuse specifically.

Noll also talked about the many ways the Internet can exploit vulnerability and promote sexual crimes through chatrooms or social networks and referenced her own study, called TechnoTeens. She flipped through a few screenshots from real teens’ Facebook profiles displaying provocative behavior, poor privacy settings, and even weapons. In her conclusion, Noll confessed that it is difficult and costly to properly distinguish sex-specific stress through research, but she urged her audience to remain aware and active. “Be thoughtful about why it matters.”