Recovering from Sexual Assault is a Process


Getting back on track

It is important for you to know that any of the feelings after being sexually assaulted are normal and temporary reactions to a traumatic event. Fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for a while. Reactions might be triggered by people, places, or things connected to the assault, or they might seem to come from “out of the blue.”

Talking about the assault can help you feel better, but it may be really hard to do. In fact, it’s common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to “get on with life” and “let the past be the past.” This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months.

Eventually you will need to deal with fears and feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen in an understanding and affirming ways — whether it’s a friend, member of your place of worship or community, family member, hotline-staff member, or counselor — is a key part of the healing process.

Recovering from a sexual assault is a gradual process that is different for everyone. Victims/survivors may have different needs and coping strategies, so there is not a set timeline for healing. There are many decisions to be made and many feelings to be expressed. Not all of the decisions or feelings will need to be handled at once, but rather as recovery progresses. This is a brief outline of the recovery process that many, but not necessarily all, victims/survivors go through.

I just want to forget what happened.

You may go from feeling emotionally drained, confused, and out of control to trying to forget what happened. You may begin distancing yourself from the sexual assault and outwardly appear “recovered,” but friends and family members’ support is still needed.

I’m so angry and depressed. I can’t seem to get control of my emotions.

Regardless of how hard you may try to keep the sexual assault from impacting your life, no matter how much you may deny its importance, the experience has had a profound influence. You may experience anger, depression, shame, anxiety, and feel that everything is falling apart. Recurring nightmares and flashbacks are common during this time.

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