Sexual assault is a crime. It can happen to anyone and is never the fault of the victim. The experience and impact of sexual assault is different for everyone but whatever the reaction, it is a normal response to an extreme emotional and physical violation.
Most people are very shocked that sexual assault could happen to them. Many will question over and over again how they could have avoided the assault and may find it hard to believe that the perpetrator could have done such a thing. Experiencing sexual assault may create a range of feelings such as being very frightened and feeling powerless. Many people talk about feelings of shame and may believe that everyone knows and is looking at them.
Sometimes the person will try to carry on as before and most wish they could just get back to their ‘normal’ life. People commonly talk about having great difficulty just getting through the daily basics. Without proper space and support to heal, many long term impacts can occur. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, dissociation, panic attacks, isolation from family and friends, uncontrolled anger and use of alcohol and other drugs to stop the pain are common.
The road to recovery and survival can be a difficult one. It is important that each person does what is right for them. This includes deciding whether they will talk to a counsellor, get medical help, go to PSNI and/or tell family and friends.
Understanding your feelings
When someone has been raped or sexually abused they can experience nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive memories and high levels of fear and distress. Counselling helps people become aware that these feelings are a normal reaction to the abnormal events they have experienced.
Women’s Aid Federation Local Women’s Aid groups deliver a range of specialised support services throughout Northern Ireland to women and children who have experienced domestic and sexual violence
If you think you might harm yourself, seek help immediately. You should:
- Call 999
- Call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 For Deaf and hard of hearing, dial 18001 0808 808 8000
- Get someone to take you to your local emergency department
- Discuss your suicidal thoughts with your doctor – talk about ways to keep yourself safe. Ask your GP or Lifeline about help for suicidal thoughts
- Call the Samaritans Helpline on 116 123