waterford rape and sexual abuse centre

WATERFORD

RAPE & SEXUAL ABUSE CENTRE



Rape and Sexual Assault

Anybody, regardless of age or circumstances, may be the target of a sexual attack.  Although the majority of victims are women, men may also be subject to attack – indeed, over 20% of those attending the Centre at any given time are male.

Common Immediate Effects

These may persist for several days or weeks.

  • Shock and withdrawal:  the victim may be unable to speak about the experience, and may appear ‘frozen’.
  • Panic and confusion:  the victim may be very distraught and show signs of extreme fear.
  • A tendency to dwell on the details of the assault.
  • Recurrent and intrusive flashbacks to the assault.
  • Sleeplessness and nightmares.
  • Hypervigilance: a tendency to startle easily.
  • Inappropriately calm and rational:  behaving as if nothing unusual has happened.
  • Obsessive washing:  the victim may feel dirty and tainted.
  • Physical trauma:  bruising, cuts or soreness, particularly around the genital area.
 

Common Long Term Effects

  • Dramatic mood-swings, particularly following exposure to events or places similar to the setting of the assault.
  • Recurrent and intrusive recollections of the assault.
  • Self-blame and guilt:  the victim may agonize over what it was s/he did which provoked the attack, regardless of the fact that it was not her/his responsibility.
  • Fear:  the victim may feel unsafe, even in familiar places with people they know.
  • Deep emotional pain:  the victim may experience strong feelings of anger, sadness, etc.
  • Difficulty in trusting men, even those whom s/he knows and cares for.
  • Sexual difficulties:  recollections of the assault may impinge on the victim’s sexual relationship with her/his partner.
  • Impaired concentration and memory.
  • Difficulty in coping with normal routines.

No matter how great the victim’s difficulty in coping with the assault, it does not mean that s/he has developed serious or permanent psychiatric or emotional problems.  The process of recovery will enable her/him to develop insights and strengths.


© Martin Quigley
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