Sexual assault is a traumatic event that may cause victims to experience a range of physical and emotional reactions. These reactions are common for most trauma victims and have nothing to do with personal weakness. Recognizing what is happening to you up front may help you handle things better.

Every trauma victim reacts differently; you may experience all, some, or none of these reactions.

Common Reactions after Trauma

  • Feeling hopeless about the future and detached or unconcerned about others
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Being jumpy and easily startled by a sudden noise
  • Feeling on guard and constantly alert
  • Having disturbing dreams, memories, or flashbacks
  • Having problems at work or school

Physical Fallout

  • Upset stomach, trouble eating
  • Trouble sleeping, exhaustion
  • Pounding heart, rapid breathing, edginess
  • Severe headache if recalling the event, sweating
  • Failing to exercise, eat right, practice safe sex, or take care of your health
  • Excessive eating, smoking, alcohol and drug use

Emotional Fallout

  • Feeling nervous, helpless, fearful, sad
  • Feeling shock, numb, unable to experience love or joy
  • Avoiding people, places, and things related to the assault
  • Being irritable or displaying outbursts of anger
  • Blaming yourself or taking on a negative view of yourself or the world
  • Not being able to trust others, engaging in conflict, being over-controlling
  • Withdrawing, feeling rejected or abandoned
  • Experiencing loss of intimacy or feeling detached

Common reactions after trauma can last for several days, a few weeks, or longer. Victims are encouraged to rely on family members, friends, or other trusted persons for support. Your Uniformed Victim Advocate (UVA) and SAPR Victim Advocate (VA) are also available to assist in the recovery process, including referrals to a variety of counseling services that can help you move forward.

Go Easy on Yourself: Recovery Is Hard Work
 

Healing from sexual assault varies from person to person. And it's not always a steady process. You're going to experience some ups and downs. But don't blame yourself for sliding backwards or not feeling better as quickly as you (or others) think you should. Be patient, set a pace that's right for you, and remember, it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
To learn more, visit the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response page.