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Common Reactions to an Assault

Emotional Response

  • Emotional shock: “I feel so numb.” “Why am I so calm?” “Why can’t I cry?” “Why don’t I feel anything?”
  • Disbelief: “I can’t believe this happened to me.”
  • Shame: “I feel so dirty.”
  • Guilt: “Did I do something to make this happen?” “Could I have done something to stop it?” “If only I had…”
  • Powerlessness: “Will I ever feel in control again?”
  • Denial: “I wasn’t really raped.” “Nothing happened.”
  • Anger: “I want to kill that person!”
  • Fear: “What if I am pregnant or have an STI? These thoughts keep going through my head. I’m afraid to close my eyes.”
  • Depression: “I’m so tired.” “I feel so helpless.” “Maybe I’d be better off dead.”
  • Triggers: “I keep having flashbacks.”
  • Anxiety: “I feel so confused.” “Am I going crazy?”
  • Helplessness: Loss of self-reliance. “Will I ever be able to function on my own?”

Behavioral Response

  • Expressive: Crying, yelling, shaking, being angry, swearing, etc. Anger may be directed at self, friends, family, etc.
  • Calm: May behave extremely composed, controlled, or unaffected.
  • Withdrawn: May shrink inside themselves, provide one word answers or none at all, or offer no information without being prodded.
  • Nightmares: Survivor may have difficulty sleeping or have nightmares of being chased or attacked.
  • Flashbacks: These may occur while the survivor is fully awake. The memories will seem intensely real to the survivor because the assault seems to be happening all over again.
  • Changing eating habits.
  • Lack of concentration or energy.
  • Rape Trauma Syndrome or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Promiscuity.
  • Abuse of alcohol.
  • Disordered Eating.

Note: Not everyone will demonstrate all of these behaviors. Everyone reacts differently. However an individual reacts, is normal for him or her.