The long-term effects of sexual violence (whether that is childhood sexual abuse, sexual harassment, rape etc.) can include many emotional, psychological and physical conditions. The experience of sexual assault or abuse at any age and whether male or female can have devastating effects on every aspect of a person’s being and life – on their mind, their body, their behaviour, thoughts and feelings.

The following list includes some of the effects now being recognised and acknowledged as the consequences of sexual violence on many victims and survivors. The Survivors Trust wants to stress that it is not inevitable that all victims will suffer from all effects – the mix, severity and complexity is a unique experience for each individual. If you are struggling with the effects of sexual violence or abuse, call our helpline or find support in your area.

Know that what happened to you was not normal or ok, but your reactions are.

You are not alone and you are not to blame.

Effects can include

Feelings of

  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Embarrassment
  • Fear, distrust
  • Sadness or anger
  • Vulnerability
  • Isolation or loneliness
  • Lack of control
  • Numbness
  • Confusion
  • Shock, disbelief
  • Denial

Experiencing 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dissociation
  • Flashbacks and Nightmares
  • Irritability and outbursts of anger
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep Problems

Other common reactions include

  • Alcohol Misuse and dependence
  • Self-injury and self harming behaviour
  • Sexual problems
  • Transient psychotic episodes
  • Borderline Personality Disorder 
  • Dissociative Identity disorder 
  • Somatisation – Emotional distress experienced as physical pain
  • Confusion about sexuality
  • Parenting Problems
  • Relationship Problems

If you are a victim or survivor of sexual violence, rape or childhood sexual abuse, the thought that you may be affected in any of the above ways may be frightening and daunting. Member agencies of The Survivors Trust have the professional expertise and empathic understanding necessary to help survivors meet the challenges and difficulties they are experiencing as a result of abuse or rape.

Remember you have a right to be safe and to choose what happens to you. We are determined to ensure that all survivors have access to appropriate counselling, support and advice so that they can reclaim their lives and obtain the justice they deserve.

To find support, please visit our Find Support in your Area page or call our helpline to speak with someone.

If you are currently supporting a survivor of sexual violence, here are some useful tips.