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Reactions & Responses to Sexual Assault

Common Reactions after rape or sexual assault

People who experience rape or sexual assault react in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to feel and no set time for when a person should start to feel better. People will draw on their own unique strengths and skills to survive and cope with rape or sexual assault.

There are some common reactions that you may experience at some point in time. These responses are sometimes referred to as Rape Trauma Syndrome and outline a number of stages that you may go through in your recovery process.

By identifying and describing some of these reactions and responses you may gain the strength to feel more in control, and recognise that your feelings and reactions are quite normal.

Feelings of powerlessness and loss of control:
‘I feel so helpless. Will I ever be in control again?’

Emotional numbness:
‘I feel numb. Why am I so calm? Why can’t I cry?’

Denial:
‘Was it really sexual assault? I’m okay. I’ll be alright’”

Disturbed sleep:
Survivors of sexual assault often experience disturbed sleep, sleepless nights and nightmares.

Flashbacks:
Memories of the assault often return without warning.

Guilt and self blame:
‘I know I did something to make this happen. If only I hadn’t…’

Embarrassment and shame:
‘I feel so dirty. ‘What will people think?’ ‘This doesn’t happen to men.’ ‘I can’t tell anyone’.

Loss of confidence:
‘I can’t do anything anymore, even the simplest things.

Mood changes:
‘I feel like I’m going crazy!’

Low self-esteem:
‘I’m disgusted by myself, by the memories. I’m just worthless.’

Depression:
‘How am I going to go on? I feel so tired and hopeless.’

Fear:
‘I’m constantly jumpy. A sudden noise, an angry voice, a shadow and I’m scared, I’m terrified.’

Anxiety:
‘I’m so tense. I’m a nervous wreck.’

Anger:
‘I want to kill him; I hate him, I hate everything, and everyone.’

Loss of sexual Confidence:
‘I just can’t bear to be touched, or looked at.’

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