Women who become victims of sexual assault typically experience the victimization as a traumatic event, perceiving it as an emotional shock. Common reactions to this kind of trauma are:

  • Fear of losing control of their lives.
  • Re-experiencing the assault in thoughts and dreams.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Feelings of guilt.
  • Self-image frequently suffers; many women report feeling “dirty’ and shower frequently in an effort to be clean.
  • Sense of sadness, feeling “down”, and depressed.
  • It is not unusual to see disruption in relationships with others.
  • Loss of interest in sexual relations.

Of these reactions ‘fear’ is the most common and the most disturbing.

  • Physical reaction. Fear and anxiety are experienced physically (heart pounding, tense muscles, etc.) at the time of the assault and also later in a similar form when something reminds the victim of the assault.
  • Mental reaction. Fear is also experienced in the mind, and thoughts sometimes trigger fear. Victims often experience irrational worrisome thoughts and nightmares. This kind of thought invasion leads to victims feeling they are going crazy.
  • Behavioral reaction. Victims respond to fear by behaving in a way which allows them to avoid people, places and situations that remind them of the assault.

We know that if you expose yourself to the feared situation often enough, your fear gradually decreases. But it is often difficult for sexual assault victims to talk about the trauma because of these painful fear reactions. The first steps therefore to manage these reactions is to try to keep your body in a relaxed mode, control your thoughts, and to feel good about yourself and what you do. Once you can manage and control this fear you will then be able to confront and discuss the assault, which is integral to the human healing process. The term ‘catharsis’ means to pour out ones emotions and then to be rid of their debilitating effects.

One thought on “Sexual Assault

  1. Jacqui Richards

    You have failed to include the long term effects on child victims for those of us who have been that. When I was 11 years old I was smuggled from the side of the road on my way home from school, taken into a forest and “grossly” sexually abused by a complete stranger. I feared for my life and that terror has never left me.
    I was let down by a system that had no idea of how to manage me. The police advised my parents never to ‘mention it again’. It would go away. Well it didn’t. It is now 35 years later and I have had a lifetime of hypervigilance, anxiety, depression, possibly PTSD. I have had counselling and just when I think I am over it, I found that I am not. Every several years it comes back to occupy my life; some aspect that has gone unnoticed, needs to be examined.

    Tonight, the news reports that the London courts have overruled a 400 year old precedent – the 20 year rule on victim’s compensation. I didn’t even know it existed to well past my use-by-date. This report has upset me and made me realised how helplessly alone I am with all of this despite a supportive and loving family, friends and therapist. I have no right of recourse. The offender was never caught. I have no justice. No movement. No recognition. I doubt that money could ever make up what I have lost – and sadly the most significant thing I realise is that I have lost the right to experience a healthy, sexual life without guilt, shame and inhibitions. I now realise that this is a significant part of a human life, and that I am entitled to it.

    This experience is not the sum of who I am. I have been a nurse, midwife, I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and am currently an artist. I love my life; but it cannot go unspoken; I have suffered, my life has been marred by this significant crime. This letter is my statement.

    Yours sincerely,


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