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Health Promotion and Wellness

Effects of Victimization

There is no single way that people react to or recover from an act of sexual violence. A survivor’s experience depends on the specifics of their situation, personal history, support system, and other resources. Survivors may suffer from a broader psychological syndrome known as PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – which can occur after any traumatic event. It is important to remember that no reaction a survivor has can ever be wrong. Regardless of what happened, when it happened, or who you are, you have the right to feel any way you want and react in any way you want without fear or violence. You deserve to be believed, validated, and supported in every step of your recovery.

Although it is impossible to say how a survivor may react to an assault, there are some characteristics that are common to survivors of all types of trauma:

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event: It is common for survivors to experience their assault again and again, often through nightmares, flashbacks, or uncontrollable thoughts.
  • Avoiding “triggers” or reminders: Survivors often try to minimize their contact with anything that reminds them of their assault. This can include modifying behavior to avoid certain people, places, events, activities, smells, foods, sounds, or any other trigger. It can also extend to avoidance of dating, intimacy, touch, or affection, and can begin to have a serious impact on the survivor’s quality of life.
  • Extreme Vigilance: It is also common for survivors to exert massive amounts of time and energy monitoring their surroundings and looking for any sign of danger. This may include problems sleeping, difficulty concentrating, anger, irritation, heavy startle reflexes, or inability to feel relaxed or to enjoy a situation.

Survivors of sexual violence may also experience a profound loss of self-esteem, faith, or trust. They may feel lonely, helpless, frustrated, confused, isolated, fearful, and upset. They may have difficulties at work or school, be forced to move, change their class schedule, or interact with a legal system that may not meet their needs for justice. These struggles are real and unfair, but they can be overcome.

If you are a survivor of an act of sexual violence, please consider seeking support from a SARA, the Lewis & Clark Student Counseling Service (located in lower Templeton next to the Student Health Service), or another mental health professional.

The SARAs can be reached at:

(503) 202-3119 (pager)


The Counseling Service can be reached at:

(503) 768-7160 or