Salisbury University students on campus

Common Responses

Emotional responses of survivors will vary from individual to individual. Sexual assault can be extremely traumatic and life-changing. It's important to remember that your responses are normal reactions to a traumatic situation – sexual assault. Below are some common feelings survivors of sexual assault may experience but is not necessarily an exhaustive list of feelings experienced by survivors.

Shock and Numbness

This response may occur soon after a sexual assault. Survivors may experience feelings of disbelief or denial about what happened. Survivors may feel emotionally detached or drained, and at times may be unaware of what is happening around her/him. Other reactions to the emotional shock may include: crying uncontrollably, laughing nervously, withdrawing, or claiming to feel nothing or be “fine.” Survivors often may feel overwhelmed to the point of not knowing how to feel or what to do.

If you are a survivor, here are some tips that may help: Recognize that these feelings are normal reactions after experiencing trauma. Reassure yourself that these feelings will diminish over time. If you want company, it may be helpful to surround yourself with supportive friends or family. You may also want to think about what has helped you through a previous crisis. For example, it may help to practice breathing exercises or meditation, go for a walk, listen to music, or talk with supportive friends and family.

Source: The Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education ~Volunteer Prevention Educator Training Manual 2007, The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities