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Sexual Assault

Rape Trauma Syndrome

When a person experiences a traumatic event, whether it is physical or psychological, they will respond in a predictable manner. When the response consists of a series of reactions that series is called a syndrome. When the trauma is psychological, the response will be emotional.

Reactions and adjustment to rape are similar to those that might be experienced after other types of major life traumas. Reactions vary from individual to individual depending on the victim's age, maturity, life experience, and support systems. There is no one way that victim's respond to rape.

Most rape victims do, however, experience a predictable range of emotions following the assault. This cluster of reactions is called RAPE TRAUMA SYNDROME.

Common Symptoms For Rape Survivors

Intrusion Symptoms
  • Intrusive thoughts and images
  • Recurring dreams/nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Intense distress to similar events
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Crying spells and tearfulness
  • Feelings of shame or embarrassment
Avoidance Symptoms
  • Avoid thoughts and feelings of the trauma
  • Avoid activities that remind you of the event
  • Inability to recall specific events of the trauma
  • Depression or diminished interest
  • Feeling of detachment from others
  • Restricted range of affect-no set feeling
  • Sense of foreshortened future
  • Withdrawal
  • Fear
  • Job difficulties
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Numbness-physical or emotional
  • Helplessness, Loss of control
  • Disorientation and confusion
Arousal Symptoms
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Anger/Rage
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance
  • High startle response
  • Physiological reactivity to reminders
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Eating disturbance
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cold sweats
Other Common Behaviors
  • Alcohol use
  • Drug use
  • Suicidal ideation
  • High risk behavior/Mastery