Common Reactions to Sexual Assault

Victims of sexual assault experience a wide range of feelings and responses based on many factors, including the type of assault, whether the perpetrator was known or unknown, previous trauma history, and the reactions of others following the assault.

It is important to remember that there is no "normal" response to a sexual assault; however, some common reactions reported by assault victims include the following:

  • Shock, numbness, or difficulty concentrating
  • Depression, sadness, isolation, lack of interest in activities
  • Anxiety, jitteriness, hypervigilance
  • Moodiness
  • Extreme worries about safety or engaging in potentially dangerous behaviors
  • Inability to remember details about the assault or intrusive thoughts about the assault
  • Acting as if nothing happened, feeling dissociated from the event
  • Difficulties sleeping, nightmares; fear of the dark
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Drinking excessively and/or using drugs
  • Difficulties in relationships and trusting others, discomfort with sex
  • Feelings of self-blame, shame, guilt, feelings of being "damaged"
  • Anger, frustration, and revenge fantasies
  • Memories of previous trauma
  • Self harmful behaviors
  • Fear of being crazy or not being able to function at all

(Taken from Franklin and Marshall College's website.)


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