Common Reactions to Sexual Violence

Each of us responds differently to trauma and loss. There is not one way a survivor of sexual violence should act or behave.

Some survivors show little emotion; others cry; some laugh nervously. Although everyone reacts differently to sexual violence, there are common reactions shared by many survivors. These reactions may appear for awhile, disappear, then reappear again.

  • Shock or numbness--feeling nothing
  • Feeling out of control
  • Nightmares/not being able to sleep
  • Angry with yourself and/or others
  • Restless sleep/fear of the dark
  • Dependency on familiar friends
  • Depression/disorganization
  • Wondering what you did to deserve the attack
  • Feeling jumpy
  • Being worried that you will never feel normal again
  • Denial that the rape happened
  • Eating problems/upset stomach
  • Denial that the rape was serious
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Fear of public places
  • Cynicism
  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of new relationships
  • Unable to have physical intimacy

It could also happen that you do not experience many or any of these feelings or behaviors. At any time, however, something may trigger your memory of the assault and throw you into crisis. "I must be crazy" is a common thought during this crisis; however, feeling the effects of a sexual assault long after it has happened is a common experience. These feelings may surface when they are least expected. You may choose to block them out or find yourself wanting to talk about the assault over and over again. All of this is typical, normal behavior for survivors of rape. As you experiences these feelings and behaviors, realize that a counselor could help you get through the rape and assist in stopping unhealthy behaviors and move to a path toward healing.