Many people think about how they would react to being raped. They may imagine that they would fight back, scream or run away. In reality many people find that the rape itself and their reaction to it is not what they imagined at all.
Most rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, stranger rape is rare. Similarly, very few rapes result in physical injury or damaged clothing, there does not have to be physical violence for rape to be committed.
Everyone will respond in their own unique way, there are however some feelings that are experienced by many victims of sexual violence.
Guilt – Many victims blame themselves for rape or sexual abuse. You may be wondering what you did to make your attacker choose you, you may be wondering if it was something you said or did that made it happen. Although this is a common feeling, the truth is that you were not responsible for your attack. The only person who is responsible for sexual violence is the perpetrator, no matter what the circumstances were surrounding the attack.
Disbelief – You may be finding it hard to believe that this could happen to you, or that a person that you know or trust could have done this to you. Most sexual offences are committed by a person known to the victim. This makes it even harder to make sense of what has happened or to come to decision about what to do. The stereotype of an attacker hiding in the bushes waiting for a victim to walk by is in fact rare.
Some people describe feeling dazed or numb, sometimes describing it as like living in a dream. You are normal.
You may be trying to make sense of what happened to you, you may not remember things in the right order or maybe you can’t remember everything that was said or done. This is your body’s way of protecting you from the trauma of sexual violence and is a perfectly normal response to such a traumatic experience.
Another common occurrence is distortion of time. Many victims know how long it took but often feel like it happened in slow motion or that it took much longer than it was in reality. Although you may not feel it this is a normal response to a traumatic event.
Out of control – An experience of sexual violence can leave you feeling powerless. This feeling of powerlessness can affect you in many ways, for example you may have felt powerless during the rape or sexual assault as your attacker would have control and taken away your choices.
You may have felt powerless to control your body if you froze or felt unable to stop what was happening. You may feel a sense of powerlessness around your own emotions as you may be experiencing very strong feelings that may be difficult to control. These feelings may also leave you with concerns or fears that you will not be able to control the decisions you need to make at this point and you may be afraid of the process involved in accessing support.
These are feelings that are common following a rape or sexual assault. Staff at SARC Teesside will understand your concerns and their aim is to ensure that victims of sexual violence are empowered and encouraged to take back control. They will help you to ensure that your decisions are acted upon and that you will not be pushed or encouraged to do or say anything that you feel uncomfortable with.
Find your local SARC
The Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Teesside provides 24/7 support to anyone who has experienced rape and other sexual offences, whether this has happened recently or in the past.
SARC Northumberland Tyne & Wear opened in September 1991 to provide a free, confidential counselling, support and advice service for women (aged 16 and over at the time of the assault) who have been subjected to an attack of a sexual nature.
The Meadows Sexual Assault Referral Centre aims to provide a sensitive and comprehensive service to residents of County Durham and Darlington who have experienced rape or sexual assault.