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Rape Victim's Symptoms

Immediately After an Assault

What to do first



"What are some early reactions to sexual assault?


In the first few days and weeks following the assault, it is very normal for a woman to experience intense and sometimes unpredictable emotions. She may have repeated strong memories of the event that are difficult to ignore, and nightmares are not uncommon. Women also report having difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and they may feel jumpy or on edge. While these initial reactions are normal and expected, some women may experience severe, highly disruptive symptoms that make it incredibly difficult to function in the first month following the assault."

If it becomes severe acute stress disorder symptoms are:

  • "Feeling numb and detached, like being in a daze or a dream, or feeling that the world is strange and unreal
  • Difficulty remembering important parts of the assault
  • Reliving the assault through repeated thoughts, memories, or nightmares
  • Avoidance of things (places, thoughts, feelings) that remind the woman of the assault
  • Anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping, concentrating, etc.)" According to NCPTSD

Many rape victims also suffer from:



Online resources


What is rape trauma syndrome? Please find out.

"Two main styles of emotion were shown by the victims within the first few hours after the rape: expressed and controlled. In the expressed style. the victim demonstrated such feelings as anger, fear and anxiety. They were restless during the interview, becoming tense when certain questions were asked, crying or sobbing when describing specific acts of the assailant, smiling in an anxious manner when certain issues were stated. In the controlled style, the feelings of the victim were masked or hidden, and a calm, composed or subdued affect could be noted. "

Journal articles

Schnurr PP. Friedman MJ. Bernardy NC. (2002). Research on posttraumatic stress disorder: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and assessment. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 58(8):877-89.



Edna B Foa; Barbara Olasov Rothbaum (1998). Treating the trauma of rape : cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD. New York : Guilford.





Trauma as Etiology Seminar Bibliography


PTSD & Addiction - NIAAA Bibliography Of 03-02-02


Resources to research this subject:

Journals and articles

Search the NCJRS Abstracts Database

Google scholar or Findarticles

Finding books at the library

Online Libraries on sexual assault

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Search terms:

Related links: Victim blame



Macdonalds, John (2004). World Book Encyclopedia. United States of America: World Book Inc.

Smith, M. D. (2004). Encyclopedia of Rape. USA: Greenwood Press.

Sedney, Mary Anne, "rape (crime)." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006 <http://gme.grolier.com> (February 1, 2006).

Hensley, L. (2002). Treatment for Survivors of Rape: Issues and Interventions. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, Vol. 24.

Seritan, A., (2005). Hysteria and the Mind-Brain Connection. Psychiatric Times, 52 (13), 41-42.

Schnurr PP. Friedman MJ. Bernardy NC. (2002). Research on posttraumatic stress disorder: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and assessment. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 58(8):877-89.

Norman, Judith. (2000). CONSTRUCTIVE NARRATIVE IN ARRESTING THE IMPACT OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER. By: Clinical Social Work Journal. 28 (3). p303-319, 17p. link

Does writing reduce posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms? Deters, Pamela B.; Range, Lillian M.; Violence and Victims, Vol 18(5), Oct 2003. pp. 569-580. link

Felmingham, Kim L.; Bryant, Richard A.; Gordon, . (2003). Evian Processing angry and neutral faces in post-traumatic stress disorder: An event-related potentials study. Neuroreport: For Rapid Communication of Neuroscience Research. 14(5). pp. 777-780. link

Use of drawing technique to encourage verbalization in adult survivor of sexual abuse. Lev-Wiesel, Rachel; Arts in Psychotherapy, Vol 25(4), 1998. pp. 257-262. link



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