Example one: Sexual assault

Sexual assault may be confined to a single incident or may occur over an extended period of time. In both cases, the consequences for the individual can be enormous. Relationships, work, social life and your emotional state may all suffer. Identifying some of your feelings immediately following the assault and some time after may help you realise that others also experience these reactions as part of coming to terms with the event.

Typical reactions following the event

You might feel you are to blame

  • because you could not stop it happening
  • other people may blame you

You may feel ashamed or "dirty"

  • "it does not happen to anyone else"
  • you feel disgusted and invaded
  • because of what you think others may think

You might feel scared and sad

  • because you feel alone
  • have been "cheated" of a normal life
  • your body has been damaged
  • others will not want you if they find out
  • scared of feeling or remembering
  • scared it might happen again
  • fear that your attacker may try and find you

You might mistrust people

  • remain distant from people in general
  • keep away from people who remind you of your attacker
  • if it was a male you may avoid contact with males
  • socially isolate yourself
  • suspicious of anyone who is nice to you

Unable to talk about your feelings

  • can't tell anyone about what has happened
  • deny your feelings
  • unable to tell a partner what has happened
  • feel depressed
  • unsure and scared about whether to press charges

Feelings of being physically and emotionally "invaded" are very strong in a person who has been sexually assaulted. It is often difficult to talk about these feelings. You may be too scared to talk or you may find that people are uncomfortable with the idea of talking about sexual assault. However, it is very important that you do not cut yourself off from your feelings. Try talking to a close friend, counsellor or people who have also been through a similar experience to you. It might help.