Assault is traumatic, not only for the person assaulted, but for her or his family and friends as well. The following are common initial reactions to learning of the sexual assault:

Every victim responds to trauma in her or his unique way. The following are things which assault victims have reported experiencing after sexual assault. Sexual assault typically affects victims on four levels – physical, emotional, cognitive, and social.

Physical reactions:

  • 1-Soreness/physical injuries
  • 2- Sleep disturbance
  • 3- Appetite disturbance/eating disorder
  • 4- Muscular tension
  • 6- Nightmares
  • 7- Somatic illness (headache, back pain, diarrhoea, ulcer, etc.).

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Emotional reactions:

  • 1- Fearo 2- Shock o3- Numbness o 4- Anxiety o 5- Depression o 6- Shame/humiliation o 7- Powerlessness o 8- Guilt o 9- Anger
  • 10- Irritability
  • 11- Mood swings
  • 12- Sadness
  • 13- Feeling vulnerable o decreased self-esteem.

Cognitive (Thought):

  • 1- What will people think?
  • 2- Will they believe me?
  • 3-Will they blame me?
  • 4- Why did this happen to me?

o       5- What if I had done . . . ?

  • 6- What if I hadn’t . . . ?

o       7- Will others hate me?

  • 8- If I forget about it, maybe it will go away .

O   9-  I deserved it because . . . 

  • 10- Difficulty concentrating-confusion.
  • 11- Loss of memory for part of the assault-flashbacks.
  • 12- Reliving the experience, triggered by sights, sounds,

              smells tastes, sensations, or experiences.

Impact on Social Behaviour:

  1. Withdrawal .
  2. Afraid to be alone .
  3. Uncomfortable around other people.
  4. Difficulty trusting others.
  5.  Afraid to leave home.
  6.   Difficulty relaxing.
  7.  Disruption in sexual relations o hypersensitivity in relating to others.
  8. Difficulty/apprehension around men, especially if they resemble the assailant.

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There is sometimes a tendency to blame the victim for the assault. This may be due to a belief in myths, such as women “ask for it” or that rape is primarily a sexual act rather than a violent crime. A friend or family member may express anger although they know intellectually that it was not the victim’s fault. Anger may also be directed at the assailant. Men who are close to the victim may feel it is their duty to seek revenge. 

They may be so tied up in anger that they are not able to be supportive to the victim. This may be because it is easier for some men to express anger than to express sadness.


Some people close to the victim may blame themselves, thinking they could have done something to protect the victim. This is particularly true of husbands, wives, or parents. Even young children have expressed some guilt. Children close to the victim may understand more than people think. Not telling them doesn’t mean they aren’t aware.


Someone close to the victim may suddenly feel very vulnerable; they are facing the fact that this could happen to them also.


It may be embarrassing for them to have to explain and to answer questions from acquaintances. It may even be embarrassing for them to have to hear about the assault.


They may not know how to help. They may not have a clear idea of what rape is and how it affects people.


You may not be able to handle close relationships. Intimate relationships, particularly, may scare the victim or be difficult. Boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, or friends may feel shut out.

Most significant others, after their initial shock and anger, become supportive of the victim. As the reality of the assault begins to sink in, most family and friends are able to shift their focus from their own pain, to that of their loved one who has been sexually assaulted. They can be a tremendous source of support and encouragement for the sexual assault victim.

Other practical problems may occur such as vaginal/anal bleeding, discharge, itchiness, sore throats and so on. 

  • Outward Adjustment

The victim may appear to be coping with the emotional turmoil, the immediate anxiety will subside, and the victim will return to their normal pursuits.