Reactions to Sexual Assault: The Victim Response

Reactions to Sexual Assault: “Victim Response”

 

Most sexual assault survivors are recovering from a life-threatening experience. They often think “if they can do this to me, they can kill me.”

 

Every survivor of sexual assault responds uniquely to the assault, just as the recovery process is different for each individual. Below is a sampling of common symptoms that survivors often experience at various points after the sexual assault.

 

PHYSICAL

  • · Eating disorders
  • · Fatigue
  • · Gastrointestinal irritability (nausea, vomiting)
  • · Headaches
  • · Muscular tension and/or spasms
  • · Nightmares
  • · Physical injuries (cuts, bruises, broken bones, etc.)
  • · Pregnancy
  • · Sleep disturbances
  • · Somatic illness
  • · Soreness
  • · Venereal disease

 

EMOTIONAL

  • · Anger
  • · Anxiety
  • · Calm
  • · Composed
  • · Denial
  • · Depression
  • · Despair
  • · Embarrassment
  • · Guilt
  • Helplessness
  • · Hopelessness
  • · Humiliation
  • · Irritability
  • · Laughter
  • · Low self-esteem
  • · Mood swings
  • · Numbness
  • · Obsessive Compulsive tendencies
  • · Phobias
  • · Powerlessness
  • · Sadness
  • · Sense of disbelief
  • · Sense of unreality
  • · Shame
  • · Shock
  • · Vulnerability

 

THOUGHTS

  • · What will people think?
  • · Will they blame me?
  • · Will others reject me?
  • · Why did this happen to me?
  • · Am I damaged goods?
  • · Why me?
  • · What if I had/had not done….”
  • · Confusion
  • · Flashbacks
  • · Difficulty concentrating
  • · If I forget about it, it will go away
  • · Bad things happen to bad people. Good things happen to good people.
  • · I deserved it because….

 

SOCIAL

  • · Withdrawal
  • · Afraid to be alone
  • · Uncomfortable around other people
  • · Afraid/nervous in crowds
  • · Difficulty trusting others
  • · Hypersensitive when relating to others
  • · Afraid to leave the house (especially alone)
  • · Less productive
  • · Difficult time getting things accomplished
  • · Difficult time relaxing
  • · Disruption in sexual relations
  • · Difficulty with intimacy
  • · Difficulties/apprehension around people, especially if they look like the assailant.

 

 

Adapted from Assault Crisis Center, Ann Arbor, MI 48014

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