Sexual assault is common. Research indicates that as many as 12-25% of women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. In most cases the survivor will know his/her attacker.
How does Sexual Assault Affect the Survivor?
Immediately after a sexual attack it is common to feel distraught. Survivors may express this by crying or by withdrawing. In the days and weeks that follow, it is common to feel nervous, have difficulty concentrating, have nightmares, cry a great deal, have problems with sleeping and eating and feel a sense of hopelessness.
For some people, there can be more lasting effects. These can include feeling generally fearful and low in mood. Survivors can be left feeling guilty and/or ashamed. Many blame themselves.
It is also common to withdraw from social relationships. Since most survivors know their attacker they can start to doubt their own judgement. This makes it hard to trust people. It can cause damage to relationships - relationships that could provide support. This can include a relationship with a partner. Survivors may stop enjoying sexual contact and may avoid touching their partner. This can be confusing for the survivor and the partner and put a strain on the relationship.
Some people who have been sexually assaulted may develop obsessive thoughts (ideas or images that make no sense but which won't go away) or compulsive behaviours (e.g. checking or counting things). Others may develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Recovery from Sexual Assault.
There is lots of help out there and recovery is possible. Talking to friends about how you feel is a good start. There are helplines and counselling services if you wish to talk to someone who is trained to help and who doesn't know you.
For more information about sexual assault and things that can help (either you or someone you know) see the Resources on the right.
TraumaPost Traumatic Stress Disorder