Feelings and effects of sexual abuse

Each woman who has been sexually assaulted recovers in her own time and way. Whatever your feelings and reactions are, they are normal and will be similar to those of other women who have experienced sexual assault. 

These feelings can include: anxiety, depression, nightmares, sleeplessness, self-blame, shame and feeling dirty. For a while you may be suspicious, fearful or afraid to be alone. These are all normal feelings. 

You and your family may experience shock, disbelief, sadness and anger. One moment you may feel calm and collected and the next, hysterical and irrational. People around you may not understand, but SASH does. 

Working with SASH, you will be supported by staff who understand - staff that you can talk to and put your trust in. You do not need to go through this on you own 

Post-Traumatic Stress          

  • Intrusive/reliving experiences such as flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts and memories at unpredictable times
  • Avoidance symptoms such as behavioural or cognitive attempts to avoid trauma-reminiscent stimuli, as well as emotional numbing
  • Hyper-arousal symptoms such as decreased or restless sleep, muscle tension, irritability, jumpiness, attention/concentration difficulties

Dissociative Responses

  • Depersonalisation
  • Fugue states
  • ‘Spacing out’ or cognitive-emotional disengagement
  • Amnesia or missing time
  • Identity alteration or confusion

Somatic Disturbance

  • Conversion reactions such as paralysis and blindness
  • Somatisation (physical symptoms from psychological distress), excessive preoccupation with bodily dysfunction
  • Psychogenic pain such as pelvic pain that cannot be explained

Substance Abuse

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs, illegal and prescription.
  • Food

Cognitive Disturbance

  • Low self-esteem
  • Helplessness/Hopelessness
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Shame
  • Exaggerated perspective of danger in the environment
  • Idealisation/rationalisation and/or justification of the perpetrator’s behaviour

Tension Reducing Activities

  • Self-harm, cutting, picking, hair pulling, nail biting