Rape and Sexual Abuse

Rape and Sexual Assault

Rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone.  The most important thing to know is that this is not your fault, you did not cause it in any way and the only person to blame is the person who sexually assaulted or raped you.

While you may find it very difficult to cope with an assault, this doesn’t mean that you have or will develop serious or permanent psychiatric or emotional problems – you are having a normal reaction to what you have been through, and going through the recovery process can help you to develop or improve your coping abilities and insights.

These are some of the ways survivors can be affected in the days and weeks following a rape or sexual assault – whatever way you react is what’s normal for you.

Common Immediate Effects

These may persist for several days or weeks.

  • Shock and withdrawal:  you may be unable to speak about the experience, may feel numb and frozen.  
  • You may feel the need to talk about what happened again and again.
  • Panic and confusion: you may be very upset and afraid.
  • Recurrent and intrusive flashbacks to the assault.
  • Sleeplessness and nightmares.
  • Hypervigilance: a tendency to startle easily.
  • You may feel very calm and rational:  behaving as if nothing unusual has happened.
  • Obsessive washing: you may feel dirty and tainted.
  • Physical trauma:  you may have bruising, cuts or soreness, particularly around the genital area.

Common Long Term Effects

  • Dramatic mood-swings, particularly if you are reminded of the assault in some way.
  • Recurrent and intrusive recollections of the assault.
  • Self-blame and guilt:  you may find you are agonizing over what it was you did or did not do which provoked the attack, regardless of the fact that it was not your fault or responsibility.
  • Fear:  you may feel unsafe, even in familiar places with people you know; be afraid to go out; afraid to sleep in the dark.
  • Deep emotional pain:  you may fell very angry, upset, sad, etc.
  • Memories of the rape/assault can make it difficult to have sex or be intimate with someone.
  • You may experience problems with concentration and memory.
  • You may have difficulty in coping with normal routines.
© Copyright - Waterford Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre