If you have been sexually assaulted or experienced any unwanted sexual contact, it is important for you to know that it was not your fault. In the aftermath, you are likely experiencing a very normal reaction to an abnormal situation. With time, the shock, fear, and confusion may be replaced by any number of emotions and you might find that these disrupt your life. Memories of the assault, or “triggers”, which can cause physical and emotional reactions may come from people, places, smells, or other things knowingly or unknowingly connected with the assault.
Talking about the assault with someone you trust can help you feel better, but it may be really hard to do. It’s common to want to avoid conversations and situations that could remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to “get on with life”, forget about it, or “let the past be the past.” You may be feeling angry, hurt, alone, or vulnerable. You may be uncertain about what happened or how to define it. There is no correct way to feel. Be compassionate toward yourself and give yourself time to heal.
Healing from sexual assault is a gradual process that is different for everyone and has no set timeframe. There are many resources available to help you process the trauma of what happened on campus and in the community. You may find there are several decisions to be made about what you want to do and who you want to tell. You may find support in talking to a counselor, friend, family member, hotline staff, someone from your place of worship, or someone in your community whom you trust. If you feel like the effects of the assault are becoming invasive, persistent, or interfering with your life, it may be helpful to talk to a licensed mental health professional.