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How to Recover from a Rape/Sexual Assault

How to Recover from a Rape/Sexual Assault
October 21, 2013 STER

When a person is raped or sexually assaulted, his or her world is turned upside down. Not only has he or she been violated in the most intimate way possible, he or she has to heal from the assault. But…how? Society is still afraid to talk openly about a rape or sexual assault; people may not know how to approach the rape victim – afraid to say the wrong thing.

Every person who has been sexually violated responds differently to the crime – some become horribly depressed while others become very angry. All emotions are fair responses to a rape or sexual assault.

Here are a list of tips for talking to a rape victim as well as how to help yourself recover from a rape or sexual assault. Note that for the purposes of this resource, we are using rape and sexual assault interchangeably.

                              How To Recover From A Rape/Sexual Assault:

If you have been the victim of a rape or sexual assault, you may not know how to feel normal again. You may feel that the emotional pain of a rape or sexual assault will never go away. You may feel shame, depression, anxiety and fear after the attack. No matter how you feel, know that things will become better, you will learn to heal, and life will go on in your new normal.

Here are some tips for recovering from a rape or sexual assault:


Seek medical attention – even if you do not want to take the assault to the police, you must be seen by a doctor to receive care for any injuries and to be tested (and receive treatment) for any sexually transmitted infections.

Even though you may have the intense desire to shower, before showering go see a doctor so he or she can collect evidence to try and convict your rapist. Even if you do not want to press charges right away, you may change your mind later. Chances are, your rapist has or will attack someone else. This evidence could be the difference between a conviction and another rape on another person.

Do not throw away or wash the clothes you were wearing at the time of attack. Place them in a sealed plastic bag to take to the police.

You are not alone – one out of every six women and one out of every 33 men have been the victim of a rape.

Remind yourself that every person responds differently to a rape or sexual assault – and that all feelings, ranging from depression, to humiliation, to fear, to confusion, to anger, to numbness, to guilt, to shame. All of these feelings, however unpleasant, are normal.

The rape was NOT your fault. Self-blame is common among rape victims. Rape victims tend to feel as though they are somehow responsible for the rape. It’s not true – the only person responsible for the sexual assault is the person who committed the rape.

It may take quite some time to rebuild trust in other people. Being the victim of a rape shatters your sense of trust and it’s not something easily rebuilt – like anything else, it takes time.

If you’re finding that you’re having a particularly difficult time coping in the aftermath of the rape, don’t be afraid to find a local counselor who specializes in rape and sexual assault.

Confide in a trusted loved one about your feelings (you can trust US!). Don’t keep them bottled inside because you feel you should be “strong” for other people. Let them know how you’re hurting and what they can do to help.

Recovering from a rape or sexual assault is a long, complicated experience. Do not feel guilty if you cannot simply “get over it.”

Part of healing from a rape or sexual assault involves regaining feelings of control over your environment. In addition to all of the other complicated feelings after a rape, feeling out of control is not uncommon. The rape took away your control – you must fight to bring it back.

Rebuilding feelings of safety, trust, control and self-worth can take quite a long time – that is okay.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you need help from a counselor or therapist, if you need help finding a support group, if you need help going to the grocery store and getting chores done, ask someone for help. There is no shame in admitting you cannot do it all alone.

Write out your feelings. Don’t hesitate to keep a private journal of your thoughts or contribute a post to US.

Find and join a support group for victims of rape and sexual assault. It can be very healing to be among people who understand the feelings you are dealing with.

Ditch anyone who doesn’t take you seriously or tries to play down what happened to you. Listening to that kind of garbage will only make you feel worse – like you need THAT in your life.

Being raped can make you feel unsafe. It may make you feel like you’re not brave any more – like you want to hide out from everyone to stay safe. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or loved one to go with you when you begin to go out again.

There is no right or wrong way to heal. Everyone has their own way of healing.

In time, you will move on from being a victim to a survivor, to someone who grabs life by the balls and makes it their bitch. You may not feel it now – but it’s true.

To be continued…

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