Impacts of Sexual Assault

Because people react to trauma in very different ways, it is not possible to predict exactly how any one survivor will feel or behave.  A survivor’s response may be influenced by the severity of the assault, existing coping skills, past experiences and trauma history, and the support  available after the assault. There is nothing right or wrong about whatever you are feeling and experiencing. And, it may be helpful for you to know some of the most common responses of sexual assault victims.

The impact of sexual violence reaches far beyond the incident of violence. Many times sexual violence impacts a person’s physical, emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Victims of sexual assault are:

  • 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
  • 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

There are a wide range of potential impacts. Each victim will react to sexual violence differently. Possible impacts of sexual violence can include but are not limited to

Physically

  • feeling dirty, taking showers and still not feeling clean
  • feeling sick, throwing up
  • not wanting to talk, trying to forget the rape
  • crying, or not being able to cry
  • appearing okay on the outside, but feeling out of control on the inside
  • pregnancy
  • HIV or AIDS
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • bruising or damage to internal organs
  • increase or decrease in appetite
  • headaches
  • increase or decrease in sleep (insomnia, hypersomnia)
  • self-mutilation (cutting, etc.)

Socially

  • wanting to be alone
  • avoiding friends—especially ones who know what happened
  • not going out or doing things that used to provide enjoyment
  • never wanting to be alone
  • over complying
  • needing to be or look perfect
  • exhibiting destructive risk taking behaviors

Emotionally

  • having flashbacks—seeing things that bring back memories of the assault
  • feeling angry at the rapist, friends who do not understand, police officers,
  • and herself
  • feeling blamed or responsible for the assault
  • wanting to escape—drinking or using drugs to forget, changing friends,
  • or attempting suicide
  • “numbing” out
  • moods swings and “black or white” thinking
  • depression

In School

  • skipping class
  • unable to think about or do school work / experience a drop in grades
  • afraid of seeing the rapist in the halls or in class
  • overachieving

In Dating Relationships

  • not trusting partner
  • fearing partner will not care about him/her after the assault
  • being intimate with partner brings back painful memories
  • having many sexual partners because sexuality doesn’t matter anymore

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