Common Reactions To Sexual Assault

  • Sexual assault is a traumatic event that causes a person to feel as though all control has been ripped away from them. Survivors of sexual assault experience a wide variety of reactions to this traumatic event. There are no "normal" responses to a sexual assault. There are, however, some common reactions reported by survivors of this traumatic event.
  • Survivors of sexual assault may experience certain physical reactions to this traumatic event. Several common physical reactions include:
    • Disruptions in appetite (eating too much/too little, not feeling hungry, etc.)
    • Changes in sleeping patterns, difficulties falling asleep, having nightmares
    • Feeling shocked, numb, or detached from reality
    • Feeling ill or nauseous
    • Having difficulties concentrating
    • Drinking excessively or using drugs
    • Engaging in self harming behaviors
    • Feeling dissociated from the event
    • Inability to remember details of the event
  • Survivors of sexual assault may also experience certain psychological reactions including:
    • Feeling depressed
    • Feeling anxious or jittery
    • A lack of interest in things that once made them happy
    • Feeling moody
    • Feeling extremely worried about their safety
    • Reexperiencing previous traumas or having flashbacks from the recent trauma
    • Experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Feeling guilty or shameful
    • Feeling embarrassed
    • Avoiding things or people associated with the trauma
    • Feeling extremely angry, frustrated, or confused about what happened
    • Fear of "being damaged" or worthless
    • Feeling responsible for the assault
    • Blocking details of the event from one's mind
    • Denying anything actually happened
  • Survivors of sexual assault may also experience certain social reactions including:
    • Withdrawal from family or friends
    • Difficulties in interpersonal or romantic relationships
    • Difficulties trusting others
    • Discomfort with sex
    • Decline in academic or work performance
    • Becoming angry with others more easily
    • Difficulty in forming new relationships
  • Again, it is important to note that these are common reactions that people who have recently survived a sexual assault may experience. Each survivor will experience the assault differently and have different reactions to it. It is important to realize that these are "normal" reactions to an "abnormal", traumatic event.
Counseling Center
Lucina Hall, room 320
Muncie, IN 47306

Hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
Phone: 765-285-1736
Fax: 765-285-2081
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