What are the affects of sexual assault?

If you have been sexually assaulted you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions and reactions that can be very distressing. This is quite normal for someone who has been through such a traumatic experience.

The impact can be short or long term and can affect you in different ways.

You may be feeling:

Shock or disbelief – I feel numb. I never thought this could happen to me.
Shame and embarrassment – how can I show my face again? What will people think?
Fear – I'm afraid to be alone, to go out, to go to sleep because I'll have nightmares.
Sad and worthless.
Angry – how dare they do this to me!
Guilt and self blame – if only I hadn't...
Anxious – I'm having panic attacks.
Physically unwell – I feel sick in the stomach; my head aches all the time.

Some common reactions you might also experience include:

Feeling differently about sex, even with your regular partner.
Feeling responsible for the assault/abuse.
Feeling isolated, alone and out of touch with the rest of the world.
Believing no one can understand how you are feeling.
Unable to stop thinking about the assault.
Unable to think clearly or to concentrate.
Not wanting to be touched by anyone.
Feeling that you cannot trust anyone.
Feeling unsafe when you are alone.

Everyone has different feelings and reactions after a sexual assault and this may change from one day to the next. Talking to someone about the experience may help you to cope and to heal.

Remember that you are NOT to blame, regardless of whether:

The perpetrator was an acquaintance, date, relative, friend or partner.
You had been sexually intimate with that person or with others before.
You were drinking or using drugs.
You froze and did not or could not say "no" .
You did not fight back.

Partners, family and friends

When someone close to you has been sexually assaulted, it can have a devastating impact on you and on the family unit. It is important for partners, family and friends to be supportive and to help the person overcome the affects of the assault.

You can help by:

Being non-judgemental
Believing the person
Encouraging them to talk about their feelings and listening to what they have to say
Allowing them to be in control of what is happening
Reassuring them it is not their fault
Ensuring their safety

You may also be affected and experiencing a range of emotions yourself, including:

Guilt - for not being able to prevent the assault or abuse
Wanting revenge
Anger – at the person, at the offender

It can be just as important for you to seek support and to talk about your own feelings with a counsellor.

Why does sexual assault and sexual abuse happen?

Sexual assault and sexual abuse are perpetrated by both men and women, although the majority of perpetrators are male and are known to their victim. Usually incidents are planned and occur because the perpetrator wants to feel a sense of power and control over another person. It is usually NOT about sexual pleasure.

Sexual assault and sexual abuse do not discriminate. They can happen to women, men and children, regardless of age, race or culture. In Australia, statistics show that one in six women and one in 20 men over the age of 15 years will experience sexual violence at some stage in their life time.

It is important to know that sexual assault or sexual abuse do NOT happen because of the dress or behavior of the victim.

Contact Details

Western Isles Rape Crisis Centre
74 Kenneth Street
Isle of Lewis

Telephone: Office: 01851 709965
Reg Scottish Charity: SC037062


HELPLINE: 01851 709965
Click for opening hours

Freephone 08088 01 03 02

National Helpline opening hours
6.00pm - 12.00pm daily

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