Reactions to Sexual Abuse

Reacting to Sexual Abuse / Assault

Restoring a sense of control is important. Make your own decisions as much as possible. This will help you feel that you have more control over your life. Seek professional help.

Following sexual assault, your lifestyle may radically change. You may have problems concentrating. You may feel like changing jobs, moving, experience nightmares, loss of appetite, depression. Some women fear being alone, or in crowds. All of these are common reactions.

Fear is natural. You may wonder if you will ever feel safe again. After a period of time your fears will diminish. Until they do, do whatever makes you feel safe.

  • "I'm afraid he will come back." Rarely do attackers return, even if they said they would.
  • "I want to buy a gun." Remember weapons can be used against you or may be found by children. (Only you can decide.)
  • A self-defense course may help you feel safer and more in control. Talk to your counselor.

Many survivors feel that it is helpful to talk with other survivors. Contact the Sexual Assault Recovery Project at 219-465-3408 for survivors' group information.

Emotional Shock

  • I feel numb.
  • Why can't I cry?
  • Why am I so calm?


  • Did it really happen?
  • Did I get raped?
  • Why me?


  • What will people think?
  • What do I tell my family?
  • People think that I am a slut.
  • People might think that I am gay.


  • I feel dirty, like there is something wrong with me now.
  • I am ashamed to have anyone touch me.
  • I look so stupid.


  • I feel as if I did something to make this happen to me.


  • How am I going to go on? I feel so tired and hopeless.
  • I hate myself.
  • I just do not want to see anyone anymore.
  • Sometimes I want to die.


  • Will I ever feel in control again?
  • My life has fallen apart.
  • Whom can I trust?


  • I can't sit still. I am having trouble getting through the day.
  • The world is turned upside-down.
  • I keep seeing him in crowds, hearing his voice.


  • I keep having flashbacks. I wish they would stop.
  • I have terrible nightmares over and over.
  • I wake up screaming.
  • Sometimes for no reason, I feel that same terror again.


  • Wasn't it "just" a rape? I was not hurt.
  • Why am I such a mess? I must be crazy.
  • It has been three months. What is the matter with me?


  • I'm afraid of so many things.
  • Will I get pregnant or get sexually transmitted diseases?
  • Am I safe?
  • Will I ever get over this?
  • I can't stand to be alone.
  • I am afraid to have a partner (lover, parents, friend) touch me.


  • I can't eat. I can't sleep.
  • I am a nervous wreck.
  • I have trouble breathing. (Anxiety is often expressed in physical symptoms, like difficulty breathing or muscle tension, sleep disturbances, changes in eating habits, nausea, stomach problems, nightmares, or bed wetting.)
  • I can't sit still. I keep waiting for something bad to happen.


  • I want to KILL him.
  • I hate that bastard.
  • I could smash something to pieces.
  • Why did this happen to me?