After Rape - How Do You Recover From Rape

Steps to recover from rape trauma. Treating psychological effects and healing from sexual assault.

How Do You Recover from Rape?

As a rape or sexual assault survivor, you may feel isolated, like no one understands. Recovery from rape doesn't mean that it's as if the rape never happened, but healing from rape trauma is possible.

Putting the Pieces Back Together

Trauma can cause psychological as well as physical pain. Trauma can fracture our integral parts (thinking, feeling, sensing, and behavior).

Here are some of the psychological symptoms of rape trauma that you can experience:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Increasing fears
  • Overeating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unexplained emotional outbursts
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Palpitations

Why treat rape trauma?

If the trauma causing the above symptoms is not treated, they can worsen and develop into the following patterns and problems:

  • Distressing memories or dreams
  • Loss of interest in what were meaningful activities.
  • Emotional numbing
  • Increased anger feelings
  • Increased health problems
  • Feelings of detachment or separation from others and self
  • Restricted range of emotions, such as inability to have loving feelings

Deciding on Getting Treatment for Rape

For many rape victims, it's easy to put off getting treatment because the memory of the event is so painful or so feared that it seems best to avoid it. Some people even deny that the event occurred, or that it bothered them. Unfortunately, evidence and clinical experience show that memories of traumatic events do not just fade away like other more trivial memories.

Traumatic memories stay with you until reprocessed in dreams or in therapy. When dreams are recurrent and interrupted by sleeplessness, they can not serve the function of desensitizing the feared material. Putting off dealing with traumatic memories just makes the work you'll have to do in therapy more complicated and lengthy.


Treatment of PTSD

The treatment of traumatic stress (or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) involves re-experiencing the traumatic events. In therapy, you should learn from these incident(s) that what you did was probably the best you could have done to survive at the time.

Once traumatic events have been fully re-experienced in this way, they should not re-emerge in dreams or in waking thoughts (flashbacks or intrusive thoughts).

The goal of therapy for traumatic incidents, like rape or sexual assault, is to desensitize the person to these events. The prognosis for therapy of PTSD is generally favorable without the use of medications. This is especially true if treatment can begin relatively soon after a single traumatic incident. Treatment of chronic or early trauma is more complex, but perhaps even more valuable.

How long will the psychological effects of rape last?

The mental and emotional effects of rape may last a lifetime, but crisis counseling and rape support groups can help reduce long-term effects and help a rape victim cope with feelings of isolation, guilt, depression, or anxiety.

It's important to get emotional and psychological support. Contact a hospital, psychologist, social worker, or rape crisis center to find out about the resources available to you. You may benefit from a rape support group where you can share your feelings with others who have had a similar traumatic experience.

Do not isolate yourself. Allow family members to provide emotional support. There are family counseling programs for family members who need help dealing with their concerns and increasing their ability to provide emotional support.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 18). After Rape - How Do You Recover From Rape, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Last Updated: May 5, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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