For Survivors of Sexual Assault: Common Reactions to Sexual Assault
Have you experienced sexual assault or abuse?
Sexual violence is a traumatic violation of the body, mind and spirit. It profoundly affects a person’s health and well-being.
Each person reacts in a unique way to sexual violence. Whether one experiences some or none of these feelings, each reaction is normal for each person. There is no right or wrong way to cope or feel after experiencing sexual violence.
The following responses are experienced by many survivors of sexual assault or abuse:
A survivor's self-esteem often diminishes after an assault or abuse. You may feel shamed, humiliated, guilty, angry, and powerless
Your attitude toward your body may be negatively affected. You may feel ashamed, or embarrassed by your body
You may experience physical symptoms of stress – for example, headaches, stomach problems, eating and sleeping problems
You may feel anxieties, depression, shame, anger/rage or fear
You may feel lowered self-esteem, shock, disbelief
You may feel disconnected from self and others
You may feel frozen or numb
You may feel loss or grief
You may have mood swings
You may feel hyper-alertness
You may use alcohol or drugs to numb or cope with feelings
You may use alcohol or drugs to numb or cope with memories
You may cut, burn or scratch yourself to numb or cope with feelings
You may find it difficult to trust others
You may find it difficult to be emotionally close with others
You may not want sexual intimacy for some time
Oppositely, you might engage in risky sexual behaviors
You may feel that sexual activity is meaningless or empty
You may become aggressive, angry or withdrawn
You may experience flashbacks of what you went through
You may experience fear of being alone and fear of future attacks
You may experience nightmares or other sleep disturbances
You may not be able to concentrate. This can affect academic or job performance
Remember that responses to sexual assault vary, and can change over time. Keep in mind that a survivor of sexual assault may experience a variety of different emotions and may cope in a variety of ways. This is normal. Every person is unique.