RCASA Friday Facts: The Aftermath of Sexual Assault
In Sexual Assault Awareness on January 20, 2012 at 6:00 am
The Aftermath of Sexual Assault:
Am I Supposed to Feel This Way?
Whether you’re a man or a woman, sexual assault is a trauma. The trauma of sexual assault involves losing control of your own body and possibly fearing death or injury. There are certain ways that human beings react to trauma that are the same for men and women. “Rape trauma syndrome” is a term that mental health professionals use to describe the common reactions that occur for both men and women after sexual assault. “Rape trauma syndrome” is not an illness or abnormal reaction — it is a normal reaction to an abnormal, traumatic event.
Below is a checklist of common reactions to sexual assault. Though each person and situation is unique, this checklist will help you to know the range of reactions that are normal to expect. If you have been sexually assaulted please call RCASA’s hotline 24hours a day/7 days a week: 540-371-1666
Checklist of Universal Reactions to Sexual Assault
- Emotional Shock: I feel numb. How can I be so calm? Why can’t I cry?
- Disbelief and/or Denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just imagined it. It wasn’t really rape.
- Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.
- Shame: I feel completely filthy, like there’s something wrong with me. I can’t get clean.
- Guilt: I feel as if it’s my fault, or I should’ve been able to stop it. If only I had…
- Depression: How am I gonna get through the semester? I’m so tired! I feel so hopeless. Maybe I’d be better off dead
- Powerlessness: Will I ever feel in control again?
- Disorientation: I don’t even know what day it is, or what class I’m supposed to be in. I keep forgetting things.
- Flashbacks: I’m still re-living the assault! I keep seeing that face and feeling like it’s happening all over again.
- Fear: I’m scared of everything. What if I have herpes or AIDS? I can’t sleep because I’ll have nightmares. I’m afraid to go out. I’m afraid to be alone.
- Anxiety: I’m having panic attacks. I can’t breathe! I can’t stop shaking. I feel overwhelmed.
- Anger: I feel like killing the person who attacked me!
- Physical Stress: My stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. I feel jittery and don’t feel like eating