Effects of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is an act of violence and a crime. Being sexually assaulted by someone you know does not make the crime any less serious or traumatic and may have a longer lasting negative effect. In fact, there may be additional trauma associated with sexual assault by an acquaintance due to the violation of trust, shared social space, and common friends.

Common fears among sexual assault survivors include worrying that the attacker will come back; fear of being alone or of crowds, and concern about family and friends finding out about the attack. Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender victims may also fear seeking help after an assault out of concern that the report will be taken less seriously or ignored because of their sexual orientation, or that their sexual orientation will be made public. Male victims of sexual assault may worry that they will be considered less "manly." Anger, frustration, and feelings of powerlessness and helplessness are common feelings among survivors of any age, gender or sexual orientation. Reactions to the assault can also include embarrassment, guilt, numbness, suspicion, denial, obsessions with the assault, aversion to touch, and the disruption of a normal sex life.

Healing from sexual assault begins when the survivor is able to deal with what happened and with his or her feelings about it. It is helpful to talk about the assault with someone you trust- a friend, family member, counselor, or an advocate from a crisis center.
Possible Physical Effects of Sexual Assault
  • Pain
  • Injuries
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Exposure to sexually transmitted diseases

Possible Emotional/Psychological Effects of Sexual Assault
  • Shock/denial
  • Irritability/anger
  • Depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Numbing/apathy (detachment, loss of caring)
  • Restricted affect (reduced ability to express emotions)
  • Nightmares/flashbacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Diminished interest in activities or sex
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Loss of security/loss of trust in others
  • Guilt/shame/embarrassment
  • Impaired memory
  • Loss of appetite
  • Suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide and death)
  • Substance Abuse
  • Psychological disorders

Possible Physiological Effects of Sexual Assault
  • Hypervigilance (always being "on your guard")
  • Insomnia
  • Exaggerated startle response (jumpiness)
  • Panic attacks
  • Eating problems/disorders
  • Self-mutilation (cutting, burning or otherwise hurting oneself)
  • Sexual dysfunction (not being able to perform sexual acts
  • Hyperarousal (exaggerated feelings/responses to stimuli)


Counseling resources, support group information and other resources are available for sexual assault survivors. 

Click here to find your local crisis center or call our 24 hour statewide sexual assault hotline 1-800-277-5570

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Domestic Violence
24-hour Hotline
1-866-644-3574

Sexual Assault 24-hour Hotline
1-800-277-5570

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Call our hotlines anywhere in New Hampshire for support. Stalking victims should call the Domestic Violence Hotline. TTY available at 1-800-Relay-NH.

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