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?

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.  Trauma has three things in common:

  • The event is a surprise
  • The person is unprepared
  • There is no way the person can stop the event from happening

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
  • Pregnancy
  • Becoming disabled
  • Body having physical memories of the violence
  • Body having physical memories of the violence
  • Regularly feeling really tired
  • Unexplained chronic pain
  • Feeling helpless and powerless
  • Anxiety, 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
  • Upsetting memories such as images, thoughts or remembering the violence
  • Panic attacks
  • 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

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.