Effects of Sexual Assault and Rape

Sexual assault and rape are never a victim's fault.

In the aftermath of a sexual assault or rape, survivors can face extremely difficult and painful emotions and experiences. Every survivor responds to traumatic events in their own way. The effects of the trauma can be short-term or last long after the sexual assault or rape.

While this page describes effects survivors often experience, it is not exhaustive. If a survivor’s reactions do not match common responses—such as no physical injury—it does not mean what happened was not sexual abuse or assault. No one is alone in their healing process. There are resources to help along the restorative pathway to healing.

What are common physical effects of sexual assault and rape?

  • Bruising
  • Bleeding (vaginal or anal)
  • Difficulty walking
  • Soreness
  • Broken or dislocated bones
  • Sexually transmitted infections and diseases
  • Pregnancy

What are common mental effects of sexual assault and rape?

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts
  • Depression, including prolonged sadness, feelings of hopelessness, unexplained crying, weight loss or gain, loss of energy or interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255.
  • Dissociation, including not being able to focus on work or on schoolwork, as well as not feeling present in everyday situations

 What are common emotional effects of sexual and rape?

  • Changes in trusting others
  • Anger and blame
  • Shock
  • Numbness
  • Loss of control
  • Disorientation
  • Helplessness
  • Sense of vulnerability
  • Fear
  • Self-blame/guilt for “allowing” the crime to happen
  • Feeling that these reactions are a sign of weakness

What else could someone experience after a sexual assault or rape?

Other circumstances can develop for a survivor after being sexual assaulted or raped. A survivor may develop a negative outlook and feel “damaged” or unworthy of a better life. Drug or alcohol abuse may also become an issue as a way to cope with the overwhelming feelings. Women may also have trouble with their menstrual cycle and fertility. In addition, survivors may experience:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle tension
  • Involuntary shaking
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Sexual dysfunction
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