Common Reactions to Sexual Assault

Common Reactions

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to react to sexual violence. However, in our years of experience, we have noticed some common threads.

Common Reactions to Sexual Assault

As a survivor of sexual assault you may find yourself having some of the following reactions:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Denial
  • Depression
  • Doubt
  • Embarrassment
  • Fear
  • Flashbacks
  • Isolation
  • Nightmares
  • Powerlessness
  • Self-blame
  • Shame
  • Sleep Disorders

All of these feelings are normal. Verity’s crisis line counselors are available 24/7 to help you overcome the devastating effects of sexual violence.

You are not alone; Verity is only a phone call away. 707-545-7273.

For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, the journey to recovery can be difficult. Get help. The first step is the hardest, but Verity will be right by your side.

Sexual violence includes but is not limited to rape, incest, inappropriate touching, sex trafficking, sexual harassment, child molestation, marital rape, exposure, and voyeurism.

Sexual violence is very traumatic. Remember, you are not alone.

Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. It does not matter what you did, wore, or said. The emotional effects of rape do not always appear immediately. It is never too late to get help. If you are interested in seeking trauma-informed counseling services, call 707-545-7270 extension 14.

Reactions to Trauma

Survivors may experience sexual problems after the rape or abuse. They may not want sexual contact of any kind, or may no longer enjoy it – this may be exacerbated if their partners blame them or are impatient with their recovery. Alternatively, they might become more sexually active than before. All of these reactions are normal and understandable.

Survivors may make drastic changes at home, at work, at school or in relationships; this can be an important part of helping them feel safe and in control again. Some of these coping skills will be healthy and supportive in their daily functioning. Some will not be very healthy and will have a negative emotional impact. Their various ways of coping may include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Self-injury
  • Eating disorders
  • Denial
  • Numbness or lack of emotion
  • Rapid, inexplicable mood changes
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Feeling dirty
  • Anger or desire for revenge
  • Fear
  • Nervousness and Worry
  • Being easily upset
  • Powerlessness and loss of control
  • Grief and loss
  • Feeling “different” from other people
  • Loss of Self-esteem
  • Losing interest in life
  • Depression
  • Suicidal feelings

If you are worried that a survivor you love is coping in unhealthy ways, don’t hesitate to call us for advice.

Immediate Trauma Reactions

Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS)  symptoms change over time. In the first days after the sexual assault, survivors often experience shock. They may be visibly upset or may appear calm and reluctant to talk. Once the shock has passed, they may behave as if nothing has happened. This period is called denial or apparent adjustment and helps the survivor block painful memories and feelings that they may not yet be strong enough to deal with. This phase can last for weeks or months or even years but is almost always followed by an extended period of active healing, during which the survivor will probably experience other RTS symptoms. With care, attention and time, the symptoms will decrease and finally disappear altogether.

Many rape survivors who experience symptoms of RTS may find it helpful to talk to a counselor trained in working with these experiences. A counselor can help them deal with the most potent symptoms, or to work through memory loss. Other survivors may find that the assault brings up other underlying problems, and in these cases, more help may be provided. If you would like to see a capable counselor, contact Verity or another local agency.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out for more information. We offer a 24/7 crisis line for survivors and provide training, education, and information about sexual assault and other forms of violence.