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Feelings After Sexual Violence

Sexual Violence Prevention & Advocacy

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The impact of sexual violence goes far beyond any physical injuries. 
Recovery takes time, and you can be left with many painful emotions and mental effects.  

It is important to remember that every survivor responds to traumatic experiences in their own way. The effects of trauma can be short-term or continue for a long time. Below are some common emotional, mental, and physical effects following experiences of sexual violence. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and a survivor may have other responses to trauma not shown here. 

Common Emotional Responses to Sexual Violence  

  • Difficulty trusting others 
  • Anger and blame 
  • Shock 
  • Numbness 
  • Loss of control 
  • Disorientation 
  • Feeling that these reactions are a sign of weakness 
  • Helplessness 
  • Sense of vulnerability 
  • Fear 
  • Self-blame/guilt for “allowing” the crime to happen 

Common Mental Effects of Sexual Violence  

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts 
  • Depression, including prolonged sadness, feelings of hopelessness, unexplained crying, weight loss or gain, loss of energy or interest in activities previously enjoyed 
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255. 
  • Dissociation, including not being able to focus on work or on schoolwork, as well as not feeling present in everyday situations 

Common Physical Effects of Sexual Violence  

  • Bruising 
  • Bleeding (vaginal or anal) 
  • Difficulty walking 
  • Soreness 
  • Broken or dislocated bones 
  • Sexually transmitted infections and diseases 
  • Pregnancy 

Other Common Experiences After Sexual Violence 

  • Drug or alcohol abuse  
  • Menstrual cycle or fertility problems  
  • Chronic fatigue  
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Involuntary shaking 
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns 
  • Sexual dysfunction