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The impact of sexual assault

The impact of sexual assault is determined by many factors and each survivor reacts to the experience in her or his unique way. There is no right or wrong way to feel and no set time for when you should be feeling better. However, there are some common responses reported by survivors in terms of the impact of being sexually assaulted. These include the impact on physical, emotional and psychological health as well as on behaviour and social relationships.

Societal myths about sexual assault (“She must have done something to encourage it” or “Men don’t get raped”) can add to the confusion and distress of survivors. Sexual assault is a traumatic, humiliating and often violent experience and aims to disempower and hurt. Survivors come from all cultures and age groups, including very young children. Although the majority of survivors who are sexually assaulted are female, men and boys also experience rape and sexual abuse. The impact of sexual assault for survivors of either sex is traumatic and all need support, consideration, and respect.

How you might feel

Like it’s your fault Ashamed Like the nightmares will never stop
Like no-one understands Lost Sad
Angry Scared Crazy
Tired Dazed Worthless
Dirty Confused Unsafe
Like you want to hurt yourself Alone Unable to trust
Hopeless Jumpy Powerless
Numb Loss of control In denial

Some of the effects of sexual assault

Confused emotions Giving up on life Sexually transmitted infections
Nightmares Shame Self-blame
Isolation Flashbacks Homelessness
Loss of trust Difficulties with sex and intimacy Depression
Exhaustion Eating disorders Undirected anger
Reliving the experience Self harm Problems with drubs & alcohol
Can’t sleep Pregnancy Can’t concentrate
Problems with relationships Low self-esteem Reliving the experience
Can’t stop thinking about it Problems at school

References and Resources

This factsheet was developed by:

CASA Forum (

Download the factsheet:

The impact of sexual assault (PDF 61 KB)