University of Southern California

Sexual Assault

After the Assault: Common Reactions

Sexual Assault is a highly traumatic experience that can have profound effects on those who survive it.   These reactions are natural and vary from person to person. Every survivor should know that she or he has the right to deal with the trauma in her or his own way and in her or his own time frame.

Psychological and Behavioral Reactions

Many survivors often feel shocked or numb. Psychological and behavioral reactions may include:

  • Feeling ashamed, as if it was somehow the victim’s fault that this happened
  • Being angry with the assailant—or even with friends, family members and other people—when the reality of what happened begins to sink in
  • Fear - having an overwhelming feeling of fear that life will never be the same again
  • Change/Disruption - changing eating and sleeping patterns
  • Feeling depressed
  • Crying at unexpected times
  • Nightmares
  • Abusing alcohol or other substances as a means of escaping the pain
  • Trust Issues - feeling as if she or he doesn't know who to trust anymore.

Survivor Reactions and Phases

The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) explains various types of reactions and provides phases that a survivor may experience following an assault on their website.

Experiencing some of these reactions is a normal part of the response to trauma. Encourage survivors to seek help, both professional assistance and support from family and friends, if possible.

Victim Advocacy Organizations

The Los Angeles College Consortium has agreements with the following victim advocacy organizations: