For Women

Rape Trauma Syndrome

Sexual assault is an extremely traumatic experience, leaving survivors overwhelmed with a mixture of emotional, psychological and physical distress. Rape Trauma Syndrome is the term for the pattern of symptoms that a survivor goes through as they progress through their healing and recovery. (It is actually a specific form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, experienced by many war veterans and others who have experienced trauma.) Every individual responds differently to a sexual assault; there is no wrong symptom, or experience, if you have been assaulted.

There are three stages of Rape Trauma Syndrome

The first stage of recovery occurs immediately after the assault, but may last several weeks. Survivors may experience shock, fear, anxiety attacks, anger, guilt, disbelief, humiliation, numbness, difficulty concentrating, flashbacks, and confusion. The physical symptoms may include headaches, stomach pain, fatigue, rashes, clamminess, appetite change, and nightmares.

During the second stage of recovery the survivor has outwardly resumed their “normal” life, but still experiences symptoms of the first stage. Some survivors never heal beyond this stage, either denying that the assault had any effect on them, or openly and frequently expressing sorrow or anger. Additional symptoms may include dropping out of school, not participating in former activities, fear of being alone or being in crowds, and not being able to sleep. Although on the outside the survivor appears to be back in control of her life, the effort of constantly repressing the event is actually what is dominating her life.

The third stage of recovery is where the victim becomes a true survivor. The assault has been accepted as an event that is part of her life experience, but no longer dominates her life. To get to this stage, it is extremely helpful to talk about the experience, either in a support group, with a counselor, or other trusted adults. Call us here at DVSAC for times, dates, and overview of our services: 530-272-3467.