Although no one can predict exactly how you will react to the sexual assault you have experienced, we can share what we have learned from others who have been through similar experiences. We hope this information will help you recognize that many of the feelings you have are normal...and that you are not alone.
An advocate from our program is available to talk with you or help you find someone who can continue to help. It is important to know that since no two people are alike, each person who survives an assault will react in his or her own way. It is also important to know that most people who have been sexually assaulted do manage to recover and go on with their lives.
What To Expect After Sexual Assault
Friends and family members also experience emotional pain. They want to do and say the right things, but they aren't always sure just what those things are. Sometimes their fear of saying or doing the wrong things keeps them from reaching out. They may feel guilty about not having been able to protect you. Acknowledging your feelings, respecting your privacy and time to heal, and "being there" emotionally for you are among the most important things to many other survivors. An assault can change your relationships with others on many levels. For example, intimacy may be more difficult and may trigger memories of the assault or flashbacks. If that happens, both you and your partner may feel guilty for causing pain for each other.
As more time passes you may resume your daily routines, and you may outwardly appear to be "back to normal." The outward appearance may be covering many feelings that are part of the healing and recovery process. This is often the time that people seek counseling or a support group, and you may as well. In these places you can discuss your fears and hopes, anger and depression, and your concerns about your personal safety, among other issues.
Eventually most people report that they feel and act like "themselves" again. You may begin to do more than go through the motions of your life. You may never completely forget the assault any more than you could forget any major trauma or crisis, but the pain and the disbelief can lessen with time, and the assault may begin to fade into the background. You may experience occasional flashbacks, especially at difficult, stressful, or times of transition in your life. Therapy can be helpful during these times too.
Adapted from: The Emotional Aftermath of Sexual Assault, Janine Arsenean, ASTOP Sexual Abuse Center.
May include anxiety, fear, disbelief, self-blame, and anger. Some people try to forget about the incident, and simply won't talk about it. Others can't seem to stop thinking about it, and relive it over and over again in their minds. Outward reactions may range from crying, shaking, distraction and restlessness to appearing calm, quiet and in control.
Going to a sexual assault center for care and follow-up services or reporting the assault to the police may be helpful for some, but upsetting for others. It is important to know that you don't have to go through this alone. It may help to have a supportive friend or family member with you, or to talk with someone who has also survived a sexual assault. The staff and volunteers of Tri-County Council are available to help with any immediate concerns.
- Get to a safe place and call someone you trust. If you don't have anyone to call you can call Tri-County Council on their toll free number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-236- 1222.
If you think you may want to report it try to save as much evidence as possible. Don't shower, wash your clothing or even comb your hair.
If you've been injured seek medical attention right away so they can access the damages and for possible protection against a sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy.
Think about reporting the assault to the police. Note: Telling the police does not mean that you have to prosecute (go to trial).
If you do want to prosecute, it is essential to have a rape exam at a hospital emergency room soon after the assault. To increase your options later, this exam is recommended, even if you are unsure about prosecution.
Following a sexual assault, you may feel shock, embarrassment, shame, guilt, disbelief, anger, anxiety or nothing at all. These are all normal reactions to a violent crime.
Remember, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
Sometimes months or even years after an assault, survivors re-experience feelings they had immediately following the attack. Counseling or support groups may help at this time.
Decisions made after a sexual assault are difficult; there are no right answers, only what is right for you. Get the support you deserve.
In the Days and Weeks That Follow
There may be disruption in routines of your daily living, eating, sleeping, concentration, working, and making decisions. Many survivors try to forget about the assault or pretend that it never happened. You may discover that the harder you try to forget, the more you seem to relive the incident in your mind.
You may withdraw from your friends and family, or you may reach out immediately to "talk through" what happened with someone you trust. You may also feel like no one can understand what you've gone through, and you may become impatient or angry with anyone who asks how you are doing or encourages you to "get on with your life."