Know the Signs

Survivors of sexual violence may feel uncomfortable immediately sharing their traumatic experience. There can be signs, however, that a person may have been sexual assaulted or raped. If you think someone you know may be a victim of sexual violence, view our resources to learn ways to help.

Signs can vary depending on the context of the assault and the survivor. An individual’s natural reactions to stress and coping may influence how a survivor reacts. Other factors can include the age of a survivor, previous exposure to unrelated traumatic incidents, and extent of therapy or timing of intervention.

Physical injuries

Not all sexual assaults and rapes cause visible injuries. Injuries can often be internal, such as internal bleeding or sexually transmitted diseases. There may not be any injuries at all after an incident of violence or abuse.

Signs of physical injuries can range depending on the violence a survivor has experienced. General indicators include:

  • Bruising
  • Bleeding (vaginal or anal)
  • Difficulty walking
  • Soreness
  • Broken or dislocated bones

Trust

Survivors of sexual violence may have difficulty trusting others. As a result, survivors may have a hard time maintaining relationships. In some cases, it can become challenging to determine who can be trustworthy.

Isolation

Survivors may also remove themselves from their community and loved ones following acts of violence. Changes in behavior may also occur, including having outbursts of anger or similar reactions.

Signs of a perpetrator

Perpetrators do not display universal characteristics of violent behavior. There are some red flags, however, to alert us. These include:

  • Using derogatory sexual terms
  • Sexually harassing others
  • Exhibiting an aggressive demeanor
  • Seeing and treating others as sexual objects
Printer-friendly version