How you might be feeling
Every survivor of a sexual assault/rape will respond in their own individual way and that is normal. These feelings and reactions may change quickly or slowly, emotions may go up and down, you may not even know how you are feeling. But most importantly whatever you are feeling today, right now, is okay.
Below is a list of some common reactions and feeling after a sexual assault/rape. You may be experiencing all of them or none of them and that is absolutely normal.
I feel nothing …
It is easy to feel overwhelmed after what has happened. One of your brain’s functions is to protect you in times of danger and trauma. Sometimes your brain will decide that the best thing for you at the moment is for you to feel numb until you feel safe again. Imagine your brain putting all your feelings into a box and when you feel safe again the box can be re-opened. This is normal and your feelings will come back when you are ready. Sometimes survivors tell us that they felt ‘spaced out’ ‘not really there’ confused and unable to make a decision. Some survivors tell us they also can’t really remember what happened to them they just know something has happened. Again this is normal, take your time and be kind to yourself.
I don’t feel in control anymore …
When someone is sexually assaulted/raped they have had control taken away from them in that moment. You may feel that you will never have control again or that the way you are feeling is out of control and confused. Again, this is a normal reaction to what has happened. You can alleviate this by trying to find out about your options, choices and what you can do immediately to take care of yourself. Try to make as many decisions for yourself as possible, even if it is only what you will have for dinner.
I was very confused at first. One minute I was crying and screaming with anger, next minute I was pretending like nothing had happened and I needed to go out and buy milk. It was really hard at first as I felt so out of control but slowly, with time that changed and I saw a way forward.
It is my fault it happened...
It is never the fault of anyone who is sexually assaulted/raped. The fault always lies firmly with the perpetrator. You did not choose to be assaulted/hurt, even if you were drunk, or because of what you were wearing, or because you flirted with them, or because you went home with them or because you didn’t fight back or scream or shout. Sometimes blaming yourself makes you feel in control, because if it was your fault, you can stop it from happening again. It can be a hard feeling to shake off but what happened to you was not your fault. Keep telling yourself that.
I feel scared all the time …
You have experienced a trauma and it is a normal reaction for you to feel scared and fearful. You may be fearful that the perpetrator will assault you again. You may be scared by strangers, or by people you know and trust, you may be sacred of being alone or in crowds. Sometimes when you have experienced something traumatic, your brain tries to keep you safe by seeing danger everywhere, even when there may be no danger there. Imagine a smoke alarm that goes off when toast has burnt, there is no fire but the smoke alarm doesn't know the difference. You can alleviate this again by finding out about your choices and options and what you can do immediately to look after yourself. If you have people around you who make you feel safe they might be able to help you at this time.
I am so angry …
You may feel anger and rage. Anger at the perpetrator, anger at yourself (self-blame), anger at the world that has changed and no longer feels safe, anger at others who could not stop what happened. Again these are normal feelings. You have a right to be angry that you have been hurt and at what you have experienced. These emotions do not make you a bad or angry person, they are a way for you to work through the hurt.
I can’t stop thinking about it …
It is common for anyone who has experienced trauma to go back to the event in his or her minds time and time again. This is especially the case in the preceding day and weeks after an assault/rape. Your brain is trying to make sense of what happened, trying to identify how it can stop it from happening again. These thoughts may be intrusive and intense at times. This may affect your sleep and you may have nightmares. It can be very difficult to deal with but reassure yourself that it is a normal part of trauma and it will lessen with time. You can alleviate some of these feelings by trying to find out about your options, choices and what you can do immediately to take care of yourself.
To find out more about your choices, options and what you can do you immediately look after yourself, keep reading more information. You can also refer yourself to our Justice Advocacy Service that can support you make any decisions you need to make around safety, reporting or the court process.
Useful contacts in this section:
- RASAC P&K Helpline: 01738 630965 (9am-5pm weekdays - you may need to leave a message)
- RASAC P&K Support Email: Support@rasacpk.org.uk
- Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline: 08088 01 03 02 (7 day 5pm - midnight)
If you are looking to refer any young person (12+) or adult woman to RASAC for Support please ensure you fill in all relevant sections of our referral form and ensure that the individual you are referring signs the form. We aim to offer an initial appointment to the individual within two to three weeks.