Effects of sexual violence

Someone who’s experienced sexual violence can respond in many different ways, and there is no particular response which is more appropriate than any other. Some people don’t have a strong emotional response, and that doesn’t mean that what happened was not rape or assault. Survivors may experience many different feelings, be confused, or have unanswered questions.

Why did it happen to me?

Rape or sexual assault can happen to anyone, and there are lots of different reasons why perpetrators choose to do it. The most important thing to remember is that it was the responsibility of the person who raped or assaulted you, not your fault. Your choices and behaviour did not cause it to happen.

Why didn’t I fight them off?

There’s no right or wrong way to respond to being raped or assaulted. It’s common for people to find that they ‘freeze’ when something very traumatic happens to them, and find themselves unable to move or shout. Being unable to fight someone off does not mean you agreed to what happened, or make you responsible for it.

I feel like I’m going mad

It can be very confusing and scary trying to deal with your feelings after a rape or sexual assault, but this does not mean you’re ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’. Lots of people feel like this, especially as perpetrators often tell survivors that the rape or assault was their fault.

How long will it take to get over it?

There is no set amount of time that it takes to deal with sexual violence. Everyone is different, and many things can affect how long it takes, such as the nature of the attack and for how long the abuse went on. Many people find that there are days or weeks when they feel better, and days or weeks when they feel worse, which is natural, though perhaps frustrating. It is important to try not to put pressure on yourself and to give yourself as much time as you need. Some people find it helpful to seek out other survivors as this helps them remember that others have similar experiences, and similar worries like this.

I didn’t say “no” - is it my fault?

Consent means actively agreeing to do something with someone. Even if you didn’t say ‘no’, this doesn’t mean you consented. It is the responsibility of your partner to make sure that you are happy with everything that goes on.

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