There is no single “right” or “legitimate” way to respond to an experience of assault. All feelings are legitimate and many survivors experience a range of feelings, physical reactions, and behavior changes. While some survivors experience an overwhelming amount of emotions, immediately after an assault, others find that days, months, or even years pass before feelings surface.
Emotions can change rapidly. Some feelings that may surface include sadness, anger, embarrassment, guilt, fear, hopelessness, powerlessness, loneliness, confusion, and grief. It is also common to feel numb, detached, dazed, or empty. Recurring thoughts, flashbacks and nightmares, and feeling like it is impossible to stop thinking about what happened are all common.
A person may feel that the rape or assault was their fault or that they could have done something to prevent it. Feeling guilty and ashamed is common. These feelings do not reflect actual culpability. Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault.
Sexual assault can make trust more difficult. Withdrawing from others or becoming dependent in relationships with friends, family, or intimate partners is common. A person may feel irritable or angry with the people in their lives. Sexual intimacy may be difficult and could bring up painful memories or a fear of losing control. Periods of stress, new intimate relationships, the anniversary of the incident, or situations such as seeing the perpetrator or testifying in court, can trigger intense feelings. Situations with charged thematic content (e.g. discussions of violence) and situations with traumatic associations for the particular survivor may be triggering. There is no such thing as something that “should” or “should not” be triggering, and it does not matter whether a trigger “makes sense” to an outside observer.
Off-Campus Mental Health Resources
BARCC counselors can help work through the mental and emotional toll of sexual assault and suggest further resources. You can call their 24-hour hotline and speak to someone right now.
Fenway Health provides many forms of counseling and support to LGBT survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
Cambridge Health Alliance has a trauma outpatient clinic that offers group therapy and ongoing clinical care for sexual violence survivors.
The Trauma Center provides traditional and non-traditional therapies and support, including trauma-sensitive yoga.
Sidran Help Desk can help you navigate their extensive database of resources for trauma survivors, including trauma-specializing therapists, peer support groups and treatment centers.
This database can help find an off-campus therapist.
On-Campus Mental Health Resources
Note that MHS normally has a 14-appointment limit. Students sometimes report that they are told there is a wait before the next available appointment. But for urgent cases, MHS has an emergency on-call therapist whom you may demand.
- RESPONSE 617.495.9600
Student-led peer counseling hotline operating from 9pm-8am.