FAQ – Normal and common experiences

Many survivors of sexual violence experience a myriad of emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel or act after sexual violence, but there are some very common and normal responses. Some may include but are not limited to:

–       Lack of trust –       Self-blame
–       Shame –       Changes in behaviour
–       Difficulty Remembering –       Anxiety
–       Fatigue –       Depression
–       Insomnia/sleep issues –       Fear
–       Guilt –       Unable to focus/concentrate
–       Hyper-arousal –       Hopelessness
–       Triggers –       Flashbacks/Nightmares

Some people who are survivors may feel always on alert and never safe. This can lead to issues in relationships with others, such as a lack of trust, re-victimizing self, or re-enacting abuse with others). Often times, survivors minimize the assault and believe “I am at fault”, or wonder about whether it was really sexual assault. Please know, it is NOT your fault! If someone engaged in sexual activity with you, and they did not have your consistent, affirmative consent, that is sexual assault.

The human body is designed to help us survive. There are three common responses when we are put into a stressful or traumatic situation.

  • Fight
  • Flight
  • Freeze – The body releases chemicals to distract and lesson pain. Dissociation (checking-out) is common.

Your body will choose the best response for survival – this is not a conscious choice. Many people feel guilt or shame for not fighting, they often think “I failed to protect myself”. It is important to understand that these responses are instantaneous and instinctive. The situation may have been worse if you responded differently. There is no situation in which you are to blame for being sexually assaulted.

Sometimes survivors stay in their ‘fight’ mode and are constantly on alert even though they logically know they are safe. This is hyper-arousal and can result in difficulties relaxing, sleeping, or feeling calm. The ability to calm down can become “burned out” over time.

Many survivors have experienced thoughts of suicide. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please contact support – Telecare Distress Centre is available 24/7 at 705-745-2273. Your Residence Life Staff, and Campus Security (8000) are also great resources. You are valued.