Sexual Assault Crisis Centre

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Effects of Sexual Violence on the Survivor

Sexual violence is a disturbing invasion of the body, mind and spirit. It deeply affects a person’s health and well-being. There are a number of common reactions to describe this hurtful type of violence on a person. Each person reacts in their own way to sexual violence and these reactions are known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). How a victim feels and their reaction to what happened to them, is normal for each person. There is no right or wrong way to cope or feel after sexual violence.

  • Is Sexual Violence a Trauma?

Trauma has three things in common:
1. The event is a surprise
2. The person is unprepared
3. There is no way the person can stop the event from happening
Sexual violence is considered a traumatic event. Trauma happens when you have so much stress that you find it hard to cope with what happened, emotionally and physically.

The trauma of sexual violence can affect someone’s life in many ways. Survivors often have feelings of hopelessness or shame and do things to hurt themselves. Trauma may cause problems with relationships and regular activities.

  • Some of the common effects are:

Hard time sleeping and eating
Injuries from the attack
Infections or virus caught from the abuser
Becoming disabled
Body having physical memories of the violence
Regularly feeling really tired
Unexplained chronic pain
Anxieties, depression, shame, anger/rage, fear
Low self-worth, shock, disbelief
Feeling dirty
Restlessness, guilt, embarrassment
Confusion, hard to pay attention, feeling separate
Feeling cut off from self and others
Feeling helpless and powerless
Upsetting memories such as images, thoughts or remembering the violence
Feeling frozen or numb
Feeling that you lost something
Mood swings that you can’t explain
More aware of the things around you
Nightmares or not being able to sleep
Stress and anxiety
Panic attacks

Sexual violence takes away a person’s feeling of trust (trust in self and others). Your feelings of security and safety are broken after being hurt.