Effects of sexual violence

Sexual violence is a traumatic experience with wide-ranging and long lasting effects. Some survivors may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope while others might try to minimize what has happened and try hard to forget the assault. Each person reacts differently. There are nevertheless many common ways people react to and deal with such a trauma. Some of the effects can show up at different times throughout a person’s life. Here are some examples of the common effects sexual violence can have on its victims:

Physical

Physical

  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Gynecological problems
  • Injury
  • Irregular sleep patterns or insomnia
  • Loss of appetite, anorexia or bulimia
  • Migraines
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Skin or hair conditions
  • Stomach or intestinal problems
  • Stress-induced conditions
  • Unwanted pregnancy
Psychological

Psychological

  • Chronic stress, anxiety
  • Confusion or amnesia
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating or lack of motivation
  • Difficulty enjoying sex
  • Fear, aggressiveness, rage
  • Feeling empty inside or sad
  • Feelings of discomfort or loss of control over your body or life
  • Feelings of grief, loss or despair
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, disgust or contempt
  • Flashbacks
  • Lack or loss of identity
  • Loss of interest
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts
Social

Social

  • Dependence on others for support
  • Difficulties dealing with others or intimacy problems
  • Difficulty taking care of yourself in relationships
  • Feelings of distrust
  • Inability to be touched
  • Isolation or loneliness
  • Promiscuity or avoidance of sexual relations
  • Rejection (others distancing themselves from the survivor)
  • Sensitivity to prejudices
  • Victimisation (difficulty trusting others, avoiding intimacy, difficulty asserting oneself)

Survivors may find it difficult to come back to the University after an attack or to avoid seeing the attacker on campus. Many effects can have a negative impact on a student’s studies (lower grades, failures, absences, academic probation, etc.) or on their ability to continue studying (suspension or dropping out). However, help is available for students through the University’s Access Service.

Tools and resources

Please note that the feminine is used throughout this website, but it does not exclude any person who has been a victim of sexual violence.

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