Some Initial Thoughts
No two victims react to sexual assault in exactly the same way. Feelings can range from anger, frustration, fear, shame and guilt to numbness. These are all normal feelings.
Demands placed on you to make important medical and legal decisions, only a short time after the crime, may intensify these feelings.
No one can tell you how you should feel. Each woman goes through a rape experience in her own unique way. The truth is, there is no way to answer the question, How should I be feeling right now? Whatever you feel, it is right for you.
Many people believe a rape victim should be crying and somewhat hysterical following the assault. Though that may be how you reacted, not all women do. Some women find themselves feeling quite calm. While these reactions are very different, there is nothing abnormal about either one, or the combination of the two.
Even the most well-meaning, supportive family and friends may not comprehend the situation or your emotional state right away.
While family, friends and even you may wish to review the crime to determine how it might have been prevented-this can be an unnecessary and painful experience. Remember, it you are alive, you did something right! Rape can and does happen to anyone.
Rape is a disruptive experience that may have a short or long term effect on your life. Some women react to rape by wanting to withdraw. In the long run, this may not be helpful. Talking about the experience and your resulting feelings with family, close friends or a counselor may hasten your recovery.
Some Natural Reactions
Women who have been raped express a wide range of feelings as they begin to deal with the after-effects of the rape. These feelings range from helplessness, fear, humiliation and embarrassment to anger, revenge and self-blame. Women often react to the violent aspects of the rape as well as the sexual aspects. Some women develop new fears after being raped. Examples of these are fear of being outdoors, indoors, alone or in crowds. Other fears can manifest themselves in hasty decisions to move, quit school or work, or change jobs.
Additional reactions to being raped include problems with sleeping. Some women report vivid dreams or nightmares; others report difficulty in falling or remaining asleep.
Many women experience a crisis in their sexual life as a result of the rape. You may find that your normal sexual behavior is disrupted. Some women experience difficulty in expressing and receiving affection. These reactions are usually temporary.
All of your emotions and reactions which appear abnormal to you may make you question whether you are going crazy. YOU ARE NOT. You are experiencing a crisis reaction to being raped. However, many of these feelings are quite uncomfortable; you may want to speak with a counselor about them.
Impact on Family and Friends
Although you are the rape victim, you may find that your husband, boyfriend, family or friends have a difficult time adjusting. Counseling often helps to define problem areas and assist in the resolution of the problem. You may want to call the Women’s Coalition for counseling referrals.
The assault and its aftermath can be disruptive to the victim’s lifestyle in many ways. A crisis period may extend for several months or may recur years later. Sexual assault victims often find it helpful to talk over their concerns with a counselor during these times. Counseling is available through the Department of Mental Health at the victim’s and/or family’s request. They can be reached at 773-1311. You can also call the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix at 773-9272 for a list of referrals to private therapists.
The Women’s Coalition would like to be of assistance to you in any way. Please do not hesitate to contact the Women’s Coalition Office, at 773-9272 or 773-WCSC or your advocate.