Emotional Reactions to Sexual Assault

  1. Overview
  2. Sexual Violence
  3. Emotional Reactions to Sexual Assault

Males who have been victimized may experience some or all of the following reactions:


  • Profound anxiety, fear, helplessness and identity confusion
  • Denial
  • Rage, anger and guilt
  • Difficulty with intimacy
  • Self-blame, extreme mood changes and depression
  • Anxiety, numbness and withdrawal
  • Nightmares and flashbacks


In addition, males who are gay, bisexual or transgender may feel that they were:


  • Being "punished" for their sexual orientation or identity; or
  • Targeted as a member of the LGBT community and withdraw from that community.


Male and female victims can experience many of the same emotional reactions to sexual assault. These feelings are normal responses to a traumatic event. There is no "right way" to feel.


No two people react in exactly the same way. Emotions may be frequent and strong for one person, less intense for another. Some victims may briefly experience a period of intense emotions after the assault. Others may appear to have healed emotionally, only to have the feelings return at a later time.


Immediately after a sexual assault, victims may feel:


  • Numb
  • Disorganized and confused
  • Unable to talk about it
  • Repressed emotions, wanting to forget it ever happened
  • Emotionally upset and tearful
  • Calm
  • Distrustful of others
  • Afraid
  • Guilt or blame



Later, victims may feel:


  • Helpless
  • Depressed
  • Angry and/or suspicious of others
  • Irritable
  • Apathetic
  • Alone, isolated
  • Vulnerable
  • Nervous
  • Impatient


Some victims may wonder if they are going crazy because of the strong feelings they have. They may experience extreme changes in mood, thinking that they have lost control. It is important to remember that this is a common response to a very stressful and traumatic event.


Male victims may also feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty and/or particularly disturbed by the fact that they were unable to protect themselves from the assault. They may fear that others will discover that they have been sexually assaulted.


Victims may ask "Why me?" or "What did I do to cause this to happen?" It is as important for males as it is for females to be reassured that they were victims of a violent crime that was not their fault. The responsibility for the assault lies with the perpetrator. Sexual assault has nothing to do with the way someone looked, walked or dressed. It is a crime of aggression, humiliation and power.


Help is available for all victims.


Call 1-800-656-HOPE to connect with the local rape crisis center in your area for free, confidential help and support.

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