Common Reactions

The hours, days, months and years following a sexual assault or rape will be different for each person.

Sometimes how we react and how we feel in the aftermath of a trauma, have no bearing on how ‘strong’ we are or ‘how much of a man’ you may be; it is just getting by in whatever way we can.

For many men, knowing that they are not alone can be what leads them to seek support. Knowing that your reactions and thoughts are common amongst other male survivors of sexual violence can bring some comfort and help you start to make sense of how you’re feeling.

Shame

“I feel disgusting”
“I can’t get clean”
“I feel filthy”
“What will people think of me?”

Denial

“I must have consented to it otherwise it wouldn’t have happened”
“Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I think it was”

Anger

“How could they do this to me?”

Shock and numbness

“Why can’t I cry?”
“Why don’t I feel anything?”

Despair

“I can’t cope...”
“I can’t live with myself knowing this has happened to me”

Disgust and repulsion

“I got an erection; does that mean I enjoyed it/consented to it?”

Guilt

“Why didn’t I fight back?”
“Did I do something to attract this?”

Feeling powerless

“They still have control over me”
“There’s no way I can tell anyone...”
“They made me ejaculate and there was nothing I could do about it”

Fear

“What if they’ve given me HIV or another STI?”
“What if I see them again?”
“What if I report it and they find out?”

Confusion

“I got an erection – does that mean I’m gay?”
“Was being raped what led me to question my sexuality?”

Disorientation

“I keep forgetting things”
“I don’t even know what day it is”

Anxiety/Panic

Shaking, shortness, feeling overwhelmed, breathlessness, light headedness, churning stomach

Flashbacks

Can be triggered by smells, sights, sounds, feelings

Physical reactions

Change in appetite, problems with sleeping, physical pain such as headaches, feeling jittery