FOR VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS

EMOTIONAL CONCERNS OF RAPE VICTIMS

As a survivor of a violent crime, you will probably experience many feelings. The first step in coping with painful feelings is to recognize them. Every individual responds differently to traumatic events. Some of the most common feelings experienced by survivors of sexual violence include anger, fear, shame, sadness, loss, loneliness, guilt, and embarrassment.

*You may feel afraid that your attacker will come back.

*You may feel ashamed and embarrassed about what has happened to you.

*You may feel helpless because it seems you have lost control of your life.

*You may feel angry and take it out on those you love.

*You may feel guilty because you believe you allowed the rape to happen or you did not do enough to fight off your attacker.

*The feelings that are experienced by sexual assault survivors are many and generally are not cause for concern.

Common Reactions to Sexual Violence

Related to these painful feelings are other reactions that you may also experience. It is important to realize that these reactions are commonly experienced by survivors of sexual violence and are not unusual.

*You may not be able to sleep or you may have nightmares.

*You may find that your eating habits have changed.

*You may have trouble concentrating and/or making decisions.

*You may have difficulty resuming your usual activities.

*You may not want to be alone or you may feel like withdrawing.

*You may be tearful or cry often.

*You may have difficulty resuming your normal sexual relationships.

*You may experience a lack of interest or apathy.

*You may be irritable.

*You may be preoccupied with thoughts about the rape.

How Do I Cope With These Feelings and Reactions?

1. Recognize that YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME. Remember that rape is a crime of violence, not a sexual act. The rapist is to blame. Even if you feel you used poor judgment prior to the rape, it is critical to remember that the punishment for poor judgment or trusting someone should never be rape. No one deserves to be raped.

2. SEEK SUPPORT. Seek out individuals whom you know will be supportive, such as a friend or family member who will offer encouragement, concern, and understanding. Ozark Rape Crisis Center is another resource for information and emotional support.

How Long Will It Take Me To Get Over The Rape?

Recovery will take time. Everyone is different and has an individual rate for recovery. It may take several weeks or up to a year or two to feel that you have "recovered." Remember that friends and family may have unrealistic ideas about recovery time. They may seem impatient with your healing process. Encourage them to read the secondary survivor information on this website. They may also call ORCC for more information.

Dealing with your feelings now can help you avoid long-term difficulties. It is not uncommon to simply want to forget the rape and put it behind you.  Denying that the rape affected you and pushing your feelings away can lead to difficulties later.  Talking with a supportive person may help you to explore your feelings about what has happened to you and come to terms with it.

It is never too late to seek help after a rape. Individuals who seek help many years later experience significant healing from the depression, anxiety, and fear that often accompanies crimes of sexual violence.

Remember that the strength that helped you survive the rape will also help you recover from the aftermath of rape.

Cause for Concern/Seeking Counseling

Many emotional and physical reactions to rape are painful and may seem overwhelming. Most of these reactions are very common. Counseling may be beneficial in helping you cope with some of these reactions.  If, however, you experience greater difficulties, counseling is strongly encouraged. Some reactions which may be cause for concern are drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal urges, long-term depression, engaging in risky behaviors, and long-term relationship difficulties.  Talking with an experienced counselor may help you work through these difficulties. Ozark Rape Crisis Center maintains a list of counselors and will be happy to assist you with referrals.


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