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Response to Trauma

Responses and Reactions to Sexual Assault

​Trauma is the body and mind’s response to an event, experience, or series of events that is deeply distressing or disturbing. Sexual assault is one of many events that trigger the mind and body’s trauma response, but everyone responds to trauma differently. There is no right or wrong response.

Common Reactions to Sexual Assault

You may have screamed, kicked, scratched

You may have experienced “tonic immobility,’’ which left you unable to yell, move, or run

You may have experienced “disassociation,” a coping strategy in which the mind disconnects from the body

You may have said and done what the offender wanted and even complimented the offender out of fear 

You did what you had to do to survive, and no matter how you reacted, what you did/said, how you were dressed, or where you were, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.

Common Emotional Responses

  • Mood swings, angry outbursts, uncontrollable crying

  • Numbness and a refusal to acknowledge the event

  • Feelings of sadness, guilt, or shame

  • Fear, anxiety, or depression

You May

  • Be unable to sleep or maintain focus

  • Experience unwanted memories, flashbacks, or nightmares

  • Withdraw from friends and family

  • Experience changes in your eating habits

  • Fear being left alone

  • Avoid people, places, or situations that remind you of the assault

  • Experience a change in your relationship with your romantic partner

  • Feel the need to change your routine and/or where you work, live, go to school

Strategies for Healing and Coping with Trauma

  • If your symptoms persist for more than 4 weeks, please seek professional help. You may be experiencing PTSD. 

  • Identify sources of support like family, friends, and/or pets

  • Get plenty of rest

  • Engage in things that bring you comfort

  • Take baths, read, meditate, draw/paint, write, cook

  • Try a new hobby or activity

  • Exercise regularly

  • Engage in physical activities like hiking or gardening

  • Speak regularly with a therapist or counselor


Know Your Rights

You have a right to justice and safety. 


You Are Not to Blame.

Who to call?


National Sexual Assault Hotline



National Domestic Violence Hotline



National Suicide Hotline



National Human Trafficking Hotline


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