It hurts us because it is not what human beings are supposed to do to each other – so this can make us feel shocked, confused, lose trust in other people, and feel frightened that it could happen again. Its common for people with harmful sexual behaviour to say things to make survivors think it is our fault, that we did something to bring this on our selves, or to think that it wasn’t even sexual assault, that we had wanted this. This causes even more confusion and brings shame too.
If you experienced high levels of fear during the assault, then you might be traumatised. Pictures or smells or feelings from the assault might come into your mind at any time, and you might even feel like you are right back in it sometimes. You might be anxious, jumping at the smallest sound or movement out the corner of your eye. This often leads to not being able to sleep, or to stay asleep.
It’s hard to live with all these thoughts and feelings, so you might start to avoid anything that reminds you of the assault, and just push all of your feelings down until you just feel numb. Sometimes we can’t make this happen on our own, so might reach out and use drugs, alcohol or cutting to help.
You might never want sex again, or want more sex to show that you are in control. You might stop eating to get that feeling of control, or eat more to help push the feelings down or to never be noticed again. Or you might do things to be noticed, to go against the idea that you must not count if someone could just ignore your wishes and treat you that way.
Sometimes it can feel like you are going crazy, but you are not. All of your reactions will make perfect sense in response to what happened to you. You or others might think that you just need to staunch up, to have it not impact you anymore, but there are very good reasons why this doesn’t usually work. Learn more here.
The good news though, is that there are ways that you can heal.