Each person who reads this will have a different story to tell: each of you will have different strengths, resources and coping strategies to support you.
This has been written as a self-help resource for survivors of traumatic life events. We hope it will offer you some understanding about your process of healing. Recovery and healing can require effort, courage and determination from you, as you begin a journey in your life that includes, but is not dominated by, your experience of rape or sexual assault.
How do people react when raped or sexually assaulted?
Does everyone react in the same way?
Experience has shown that both women and men experience very similar reactions, to sexual assault, whatever their age, sexual orientation, or ability.
How will I feel afterwards?
How will I cope with putting my life back together?
How long does it take to get over it?
What can family, friends and professionals to do help?
These are just some of the many questions you may have about rape and sexual assault. To answer them, many studies have been done. One of them, in America, produced a set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours, divided into stages, which researchers had noted were most generally felt by people who had suffered an experience of this kind, which they call Rape Trauma Syndrome. Many of the reactions noted were very surprising to them, as they were very different from the public perception and what survivors themselves said they would have expected.
Many people feel that they are only ones to be going through these feelings and that they are stupid or going crazy. For this reason it can be helpful to be aware of these reactions. However, although the reactions are well documented no two people will have the same reaction in the same order or timescale. This is because we all have different ways of coping with events that happen in our lives. It may be useful to be aware that talking to someone who understands the full effect of rape and sexual assault may be helpful. Do not feel that you should be able to cope with this alone. It may be that you had told nobody else what has happened.
The first thing to bear in mind is that rape is a crisis, a very frightening and perhaps a very violent one. The reactions to rape and sexual assault have been compared to other extreme experiences such as rail crashes, battle situations, violent crimes and other disasters.
Our information aims to help you identify some of these feelings and establish some kind of timescale. Do remember that this should only be used as a guide, as your experience of this process will be different to that of another person