Processing TraumaThere is no right or wrong way to react to sexual violence.
Common Reactions To Sexual Assault
Sexual violence includes, but is not limited to: rape, incest, inappropriate touching, sex trafficking, sexual harassment, child molestation, marital rape, exposure, and voyeurism.
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 counseling services, call 707-545-7270 extension 14.
As a survivor of sexual assault you may find yourself having some of the following reactions:
- Sleep Disorders
All of these feelings are normal. For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, the journey to recovery can be difficult. The first step is often the hardest, but Verity will be right by your side if you need us.
Life Impact Of Trauma
Sexual assault and trauma 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
- Eating disorders
- Numbness or lack of emotion
- Rapid, inexplicable mood changes
- Feeling dirty
- Anger or desire for revenge
- 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
- Suicidal feelings
Survivors may also experience sexual problems after the rape or abuse. They may not want sexual contact of any kind, or may no longer enjoy it. Those feelings 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.
If you are worried that a survivor you love is coping in unhealthy ways, you are encouraged to call us for advice.
Rape Trauma Syndrome
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, months, or even years, but is almost always followed by an extended period of active healing. During the healing period, 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 rape trauma syndrome 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.
We encourage our clients back into their lives by recognizing sexual assault as trauma, which is something that we all, as humans, can relate to.
We provide support groups for survivors of sexual assault and for their loved ones who may be struggling with their own feelings.
Our rape crisis intervention line is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.
If you need immediate help with a crisis, call our 24 hour crisis support line at (707) 545-7273. To send us an email, please fill out the adjacent form and we’ll respond to you as quickly as we are able. Our typical response time is within two business days.
We welcome questions and feedback from our community, and look forward to speaking with you.